SpaceX Pulls Off Two Drone Ship Landings in Three Days

Smoke, fire … and fog? Following a successful Falcon 9 launch and high-impact landing on Friday off the coast of Florida, SpaceX was back at it again Sunday, this time delivering 10 satellites to low-Earth orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. But extreme weather was a factor on Sunday, with fog enveloping the Falcon 9 on the launch pad. Luckily, it was not enough to affect its flight, and the mission went off without a hitch.

The successful launch and landing marked a momentous weekend for SpaceX, with the company performing drone ship landings at each end of the continent on its tightest launch schedule yet.

Just before the launch, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk was tweeting that the launch would indeed be a little iffy. “Launch at 1:25 delivering 10 satellites for Iridium,” he posted. “Droneship repositioned due to extreme weather. Will be tight.”

Still, the weather didn’t turn out to be a major detriment as the Falcon 9 ascended the atmosphere, released its cargo, and began its descent towards the Pacific Ocean.

While Friday’s landing suffered from a cut out live feed due to the highest reentry force ever experienced by a Falcon 9, Sunday’s landing on the Just Read the Instructions drone ship fared much better. The rocket landed smoothly on the landing pad in a slightly stormy ocean, with an attached camera giving an amazing view of the descent.

The weekend doubleheader is a big win for SpaceX, which has been working towards the goal of launching rockets every two to three weeks. The launches essentially prove the company can achieve that goal and then some. SpaceX’s intention of increasing spaceflight, as well as optimize the use of reusable spacecraft, will add up to a more accessible, cheaper spacefaring future — also known as Elon Musk’s long game to get us all hanging out on Mars.

Musk tweeted shortly after the launch that the newly-added fins on the Falcon 9 were working out better than anticipated. The titanium-made fins are meant to handle the heat of reentry better.

Sunday’s mission sent a Falcon 9 upward to deliver satellites for Iridium, an American communications company that operates satellites all over the globe for worldwide voice and data communication. It was the second set of ten satellites that SpaceX has delivered for Iridium, with a total of 75 planned.

Back in the air, the SpaceX live stream — narrated by engineer John Insprucker, a man who sounded charmingly like a less hard of hearing Gordon Cole — took a 40-minute break before the second stage engine was restarted. Insprucker then walked viewers through the final moments of the second stage, as the ten satellites were deployed into orbit.

You can watch the entire launch and landing stream below.

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