SpaceX Successfully Launches Second Falcon 9 Rocket In Two Days
SpaceX succeeded in launching a second Falcon 9 rocket into space for Iridium, a global satellite telecommunications provider. This is the second Falcon 9 rocket launched in two days.
Like the flight from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the Falcon 9's first stage rocket plunged back to Earth and made a landing on a barge stationed several hundred miles downrange of the launch site. According to SpaceFlight Now, the back-to-back launching and landing set a record for the shortest turnaround between two SpaceX flights, albeit from different launch sites.
The last time two orbital U.S. rockets of a similar type lifted off two days apart was back in March 1995, when a Lockheed Martin Atlas 2AS rocket and an Atlas-E launcher flew separate missions from Cape Canaveral and Vandenberg Air Force Base.
However, Russian Soyuz rockets are known to fly the same day from different launch pads. As recently as March 2015, Soyuz boosters took off only two hours apart from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, with a three-man crew.
The SpaceX mission on Sunday began at 1:25:14 p.m. PDT, and the 229-foot-tall Falcon launcher lifted off from the Space Launch Complex. After the first stage rocket dropped away from the Falcon 9 rocket's upper stage, it began a descent toward a SpaceX barge in the Pacific Ocean. The rocket it set to return to port in Southern California in a few days, subject to inspections and evaluation for possible reuse.
Tech Crunch also noted that the mission included a first use of a new grid fin system on a Falcon 9 first stage. These fins are used to help steer the first stage of a Falcon 9 rocket as it re-enters the atmosphere and returns to the planet's surface. The fins are said to be made of solid titanium instead of the usual shielded aluminum, which could then allow SpaceX to reuse the rocket with no necessary refurbishments, lessening time and money costs for further relaunches.