For the third time in a row, a SpaceX Falcon 9 booster sent a payload into space and then came back for a landing on an oceangoing platform. But this time, the booster was a little shaken up.
Today’s launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida put the Thaicom 8 telecommunications satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit.
Minutes after liftoff at 5:40 p.m. ET (2:40 p.m. PT), the Falcon’s first stage fell away from the second stage. While the second stage continued into orbit with the satellite, the first stage went through a series of maneuvers aimed at braking its supersonic descent and putting itself down on an autonomous drone ship hundreds of miles out in the Atlantic Ocean.
This one was a nail-biter: The launch to a high orbit meant the booster had to re-enter the atmosphere at an incredibly high speed.
In a series of tweets, SpaceX founder Elon Musk said the booster was roughed up when it landed on the drone ship, known as “Of Course I Still Love You.”