SpaceX nails high-speed ocean landing
SpaceX has made a comeback by nailing another seabarge landing of a first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket. Returning from the successful launch of a Japanese communications satellite, the Falcon 9 booster set down on the "Of Course I Still Love You" droneship located in the Atlantic downrange from the launch site in Florida late Saturday.
The Falcon 9 lifted off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida at 1:26 am EDT (5:26 GMT) in a nighttime launch of the JCSAT-16 mission carrying a geosynchronous communications satellite for Japan's direct broadcast satellite service SKY Perfect.
The booster set the satellite into a Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO) using its nine Merlin 1B engines. First stage shutdown and second stage separation went off according to schedule, as did the two second stage burns and the satellite deployment 32 minutes into the mission.
Meanwhile, the Falcon 9's first stage carried out a series of engine burns to slow it down from hypersonic speed and alter its trajectory to land on the droneship. SpaceX says that the barge landing was the only option because the high velocity of the GTO launch and the propellant expended ruled out a return to Canaveral.
The landing was almost in the center of the target circle and was the first successful landing following an unsuccessful barge landing attempt on June 15. However, satellite communications with the barge was cut off a second before touchdown due to vibrations to the disappointment of onlookers at mission control.
SpaceX previously launched JCSAT-14 in May, which was also followed by a successful barge landing of the Falcon 9 first stage.
The hosted webcast of the mission appears below, but don't bother watching it to check out the landing, as the video feed freezes at around the 25-minute mark just as the Falcon 9 first stage comes in for a landing