SpaceX makes its fourth suc­cess­ful rocket land­ing

DNA Sunday (Mumbai) - - FRONT PAGE - — AFP

Cape Canaveral: SpaceX launched an Asian com­mu­ni­ca­tions satel­lite into a dis­tant or­bit Fri­day and for the fourth time man­aged to re­cover the rocket that did the work. Un­der blue skies dot­ted with clouds, the shiny white Fal­con 9 rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida at 5: 40 pm ( 2140 GMT) car­ry­ing the Thaicom 8 satel­lite.

The rocket re­turned to Earth about 10 min­utes later, fir­ing its en­gines and ma­neu­ver­ing with its fins to an up­right po­si­tion on a pow­ered barge, known as a drone ship, po­si­tioned in the At­lantic Ocean some 680 kilo­me­tres off the Florida coast. SpaceX head­quar­ters in Hawthorne, Cal­i­for­nia erupted in cheers as the rocket touched down.

At first, the live we­b­cast cut out briefly as the rocket neared the drone ship, then footage re­turned, show­ing the scorched but in­tact rocket stand­ing straight and ap­pear­ing steady. “Rocket land­ing speed was close to de­sign max,” said SpaceX CEO Elon Musk on Twit­ter, not­ing that there was some “back and forth mo­tion.” “Prob ok, but some risk of tip­ping,” he added.

Musk wants to rev­o­lu­tionise the launch in­dus­try by mak­ing rocket com­po­nents re­us­able, much the same way as com­mer­cial air­planes. Cur­rently, ex­pen­sive rocket parts are jet­ti­soned into the ocean af­ter each launch. SpaceX has man­aged to suc­cess­fully land the first stage of its Fal­con 9 rock­ets three times be­fore — twice on wa­ter and once on land.

This is the sec­ond time SpaceX has landed on the ocean plat­form af­ter a launch to geo­sta­tion­ary trans­fer or­bit, which is much fur­ther than the low- Earth or­bit al­ti­tude at which the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion cir­cles the globe. The high speed and heat in­volved with the rocket’s re­turn make a steady touch­down more chal­leng­ing than a low- Earth or­bit launch.

The pri­mary mis­sion of the launch was also a suc­cess. The Thaicom 8 satel­lite, which weighs about 3,000 kilo­grams was de­ployed as planned. The satel­lite will pro­vide broad­cast and data ser­vices to South Asia and South­east Asia for a pe­riod of 15 years.

AP

Crowds wit­ness the lift- off of a SpaceX Fal­con 9 rocket with the Thaicom 8 satel­lite aboard, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Sta­tion—

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