Touch down with SpaceX

On 27 May, SpaceX successfully launched the THAICOM 8 telecommunications satellite into orbit. Its Falcon 9 launch vehicle took off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and, once more, the company founded by Elon Musk attempted to recover the first stage by landing it on a barge in the ocean a few hundred kilometres from the launch point. This was another success. An on board camera even enables us to experience this spectacular return as if we were sat astride the stage! The video below is played at high speed.

Note that at the start of the video, the stage is correctly positioned for re-entry. The white jets that can be seen from time to time come from the small engines that are used to move and keep the stage on the right attitude. At 0:13, a section of the stage’s 9 engines fires in order to slow it down and protect it (the blast of air acts as an aerodynamic shield). At 0:21, a single engine restarts in order to provide the final breaking for a perfect landing on the barge called “Of Course I Still Love You”. During this phase, it’s easy to see the movement of the grid fins on the sides (2 of the 4 are visible) which help to keep the stage on the right trajectory. The 4 landing legs deploy (only 2 can be seen) and the landing is almost exactly on the central X which uses the same graphics as the SpaceX logo. The company hopes to reuse its launch vehicle stages and lower the cost of accessing space.