SpaceX sent the Es’hail-2 telecommunications satellite into orbit today, then brought the Falcon 9 rocket’s first-stage booster back down for an at-sea landing.
The Falcon 9 lifted off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center after a trouble-free countdown. The only break from SpaceX’s recent routine was the fact that the launch came during daylight hours, at 3:46 p.m. ET (12:46 p.m. PT).
Minutes after launch, the Falcon 9’s second stage separated from the first stage and continued the push to geostationary transfer orbit. That freed up the first stage to go through an autonomous sequence of commands and touch down on SpaceX’s drone ship, “Of Course I Still Love You,” which was standing by hundreds of miles from shore in the Atlantic Ocean. This was the second go-round for that particular first stage. The first go-round came in July when the booster helped launch the Telstar 19 Vantage satellite and came back down for recovery and refurbishment.