A SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket takes off from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023.
As it sent two government payloads into space on Sunday night, SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket put on a spectacular show of fireworks. About eight minutes later, both of the rocket’s side boosters landed back at Cape Canaveral, giving people watching a great show.
The landings, which were SpaceX’s 163rd and 164th successful booster recoveries, were marked by loud booms. The center core of the rocket was thrown into the ocean because the rocket needed more fuel to get the payload to orbit.
One person in the crowd took very detailed video of the carefully choreographed orbital dance that Falcon Heavy does to help each rocket land perfectly.
Here's a highly compressed 1080p preview of my footage. This is easily the best launch footage I have ever captured, stay tuned for the full launch to landing in 4K! Big thanks to @LCS_Big_Mike for running the focuser for me!@DJSnM @Erdayastronaut @spacestationguy @RedsRhetoric pic.twitter.com/S0mgVUGdq8
— Astronomy Live (@astroferg) January 16, 2023
SpaceX rockets have four main parts: the first stage, the second (or upper) stage, an interstage that connects the first and second stages, and a payload fairing that holds the rocket’s cargo or satellites.
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SpaceX says that the first stage and the payload fairings are made to be used more than once. Together, they make up nearly 70% of the cost of the rocket.
After a SpaceX rocket launches, it goes through a series of steps that are meant to make sure the payload gets to the right orbit. But after the first and second stages separate, the second stage keeps going with the payload while the first stage gets ready to come back to Earth and land either on land or on a floating platform in the ocean.
Once the first stage separates, the booster starts a sort of orbital ballet where it flips around in midair and fires three of its engines as part of a boost backburn to prepare itself for landing. The launch footage from Astronomy Live shows this flip manoeuvre in detail.
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