SpaceX returns Falcon 9 to Earth

22 Dec

On Monday, Dec 21, at 8:39 pm EST (5:39 pm PST) those that gathered in Cape Canaveral, Florida, or watched SpaceX’s live feed, were awed by a rare sight when they saw a rocket ship return to Earth. It was only the second time that a privately held company successfully landed the first stage of a rocket. The first was last month when Blue Origin launched a craft into space and then brought their New Shepard rocket down for a landing.

SpaceX employees at the company’s Hawthorne headquarters gave high-fives, cheered and chanted “U.S.A., U.S.A.” after the rocket touched down on a concrete pad about 10 minutes after the liftoff at 5:29 p.m. Pacific time.

Welcome back, baby!” Musk tweeted after the landing.

The successful landing was the third attempt for the Hawthorn, California-based company. The first attempt was after a Jan 10 launch when they tried to bring the Falcon back from space and land it on a barge. The Falcon 9 failed to make it onto the barge due to a malfunction and crashed. The second try at landing the Falcon 9 was after a successful mid April launch. Once again the rocket didn’t hit it’s mark on the drone barge and fell into the Ocean. SpaceX was scheduled to make a third attempt in June but the craft exploded shortly after launch.

For the six months since that June accident SpaceX suspended all future launches until they fixed the problem. Right after that failure the engineering staff went to work on design flaws in the rocket. The rocket used in the Monday launch was quite different from the rocket that exploded in June. Those changes included upgrading the rocket booster to 9 Merlin 1D engines, a cooled liquid oxygen fuel, and making the rocket taller.

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