All Images & Video Credit & Copyright to SpaceX.
On Monday, December 21, 2015 we witnessed history as SpaceX not only successfully returned to flight with its new and improved Falcon 9 v1.2 FT, but for the first time in history, humanity has sent objects into orbit via rocket and returned the first stage in-tact for possible re-use at a later time.
The mission to launch 11 Orbcomm Generation-2 satellites (OG2) lifted off 20:29 EST (01:29 UTC) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) in what was one of the most highly anticipated non-crewed launches in memory. Musk and SpaceX not only returned themselves to flight after the CRS-7 in-flight break up, but they made significant changes to the rocket and its systems so in many ways, this was also somewhat of a test launch as it was the first launch of its kind.
However, the aspect to this launch that truly overshadowed the mission itself was the fact that SpaceX successfully returned the Falcon 9’s 1st stage booster to Cape Canaveral and landed it successfully at the former Launch Complex-13, now named Landing Zone-1 (LZ-1) 9 minutes and 44 seconds after liftoff (T+09:44).
Musk later proudly provided an image and short video clip to Twitter of the Falcon on the ground at LZ-1. He later stated that because of the sound during landing, he initially thought that it had exploded and was rather surprised to realize that it had succeeded. He also stated that this Falcon will be delivered to the legendary LC-39A where it will undergo testing though, as it’s the first of its kind it will likely end up on display somewhere vs. being flown again.
Here’s a blog post from Elon issued prior to launch which has some great information:
Elon Musk Twitter: https://twitter.com/elonmusk
SpaceX Twitter: https://twitter.com/SpaceX
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SpaceX YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/spacexchannel
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SpaceX Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/spacexphotos