SpaceX successfully launched its reusable Falcon 9 rocket into space carrying NASA’s new ocean satellite.
The private SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will return to a drone platform in the Pacific Ocean after launching the Jason-3 ocean monitoring satellite into orbit, if all goes as scheduled.
The rocket took off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The Jason-3 satellite weights 1,124 pounds and is about 3.3-feet on each side. The launch was SpaceX’s second take-off from Vandenberg, which was shrouded in a deep fog. The rocket took off from Space Launch Complex 4E, the launch pad that was used for Atlas rocket launches from 1962 to 2005. SpaceX took over that pad starting in 2011.
The launch went off without a hitch and the first stage has already separated from the rocket. The first stage booster is expected to return to the drone platform. That stage has done a flip and is headed back down to earth. Touchdown is expected to take place within minutes of the launch.
The livestream recorded the takeoff fine, but the video cut out as the team was awaiting the return of the first stage to the launch pad.
SpaceX, based in Hawthorne, Calif., was founded in 2002 by Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk. The goal was creating the technologies to reduce the cost of sending rockets into space and enabling the colonization of Marsh. The company developed both the Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 launch vehicles to be reusable. The company launched its first Falcon 1 into orbit in 2008. On Dec. 21, 2015, the company successfully returned a first-stage booster back to the ground at Cape Canaveral.