Image Credit: SpaceX
“Beautiful ascent” said NASA launch announcer Mike Curie, and man oh man was he right. After two scrubs and a Monday launch attempt nixed by dreadful weather, the SpaceX Falcon 9 carrying the DSCOVR spacecraft lifted off into cobalt blue skies in a picture perfect launch.
With lighting of the all white rocket provided by a Florida sunset, the Falcon 9, this evening’s launch gave viewers and NASA tracking cameras exceptionally clear images of ascent, stage separation, fairing separation, and finally the climb to orbit powered by the Merlin 1-D second stage engine. It is the flip-over and descent of the first stage which made prove the most indelible.
While this particular Falcon 9 was almost certainly headed towards its demise in a storm tossed sea featuring waves as high as 30 feet, (voice channels seemed to confirm a controlled splashdown) the data gathered will continue to help refine the knowledge necessary to make propulsive return a regular feature of SpaceX launches.
With the first stage left to its fate, and recovery vessels withdrawn from the area due to the hazardous conditions, the second stage performed as planned, placing the Deep Space Climate Observatory in an initial parking orbit. Approximately 30 minutes after liftoff, the second stage fired again for a 58 second burn which placed it on the path towards the L-1 point, almost a million miles from Earth.
As of today, SpaceX can officially claim the mantle of a deep space company.
There is so much more to come.