Almost exactly three days after launching a few miles north at the Kennedy Space Center on SpaceX’s historic first crew launch, a 15-storey Falcon rocket amplifier returned to Florida’s space shore Tuesday aboard a football pitch.
Lots of locals, tourists and space enthusiasts showed up in Jetty Park and Port Canaveral to see the booster when it returned from the ocean.
A tugboat pulled the drone ship through the inlet that led to Port Canaveral around 10 p.m. EDT (1800 GMT) Tuesday, and sailors gently maneuvered the drone ship in place of a crane to lift the Falcon 9 rocket booster from the ship into a land stand. SpaceX planned to remove or retract the rocket’s landing leg, then rotate the booster horizontally for transport back to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station for further inspections and probably renovation for another launch.
Falcon 9 rocket is lifted at 3:22 p.m. EDT (1922 GMT) Saturday from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center carrying NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken on a test flight to the International Space Station aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spaceship.
It was the first time astronauts have launched from U.S. Earth into orbit since the last space shuttle launched July 8, 2011.
The first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket shut down its nine Merlin engines about two and a half minutes after lifting, and was then released to allow the rocket’s upper stage to slide into orbit with the Crew Dragon capsule.
The first stage set out four grid fins for aerodynamic stability, and then reignited a subset of its Merlin engines to steer toward a landing on SpaceX’s drone “Of course I still love you” a few hundred miles northeast of Cape Canaveral.
A single-engine combustion slowed down the rocket for the final descent to the drone ship’s deck, and four black carbon fiber landing legs were extended just before the touchdown.
The first stage of the Crew Dragon Demo-2 launch flew for the first time. The commercial American flags and NASA logos, both the agency’s iconic blue “meatball” badges and the recently revived stylized “mask” type.
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