Launch footage shows SpaceX repairing its rockets
SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket on a dazzling display of pyrotechnics Sunday night while the heavy lifter took two government payloads to space. About eight minutes later, onlookers were treated to a double landing of the rocket’s two side boosters at Cape Canaveral.
Sonic booms crackled overhead as the landings marked the 163rd and 164th successful booster recoveries for SpaceX. The rocket’s center core was discarded into the ocean due to the fuel requirements needed to launch the payload into orbit.
One spectator in particular captured incredibly detailed footage of Falcon Heavy’s carefully choreographed orbital ballet helping each rocket land.
SpaceX rockets consist of four main components: the first stage, the second (or upper) stage, an intermediate stage connecting the two, and a fairing, which houses any payload or satellites the rocket carries.
Two of those components, the first stage and the fairings, are designed to be reusable and together account for nearly 70 percent of the rocket’s cost, according to SpaceX.
After a SpaceX rocket launches, it goes through a series of steps designed to ensure that the payload reaches its intended orbit. But after the first and second stages separate, the second stage continues with the payload, while the first stage prepares to return to Earth, where it will land on land or on a floating platform in the ocean.
Once the first stage separates, the booster begins a sort of orbital ballet where it spins in the air and fires three of its engines as part of a boostback burn, which will orient itself for landing. This flip maneuver can be seen in detail in Astronomy Live’s launch footage.
The boostback burn is the first of three landing burns needed to slow the rocket so it can avoid a crash landing. Next, the booster will deploy a set of titanium grille fins that will be used to steer the missile. After that, the craft will re-ignite its engines briefly for a step-in burn, as it re-enters Earth’s atmosphere.
The booster is then guided to its landing site with the help of the grid fins before the engines kick on one last time, as it ideally comes in cautiously for a landing.
SpaceX has been recovering rockets this way since 2015, when it recovered its first booster at Cape Canaveral.
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