ORBCOMM-2 (Falcon 9)
21 December 2015
Space Launch Complex 40/Landing Zone 1
Cape Canaveral Air Force Station
SpaceX returns to flight after its 28 June 2015 accident with the launch of an upgraded Falcon 9 rocket at 8:29 p.m. on 21 December 2015 carrying eleven refrigerator-sized satellites for the ORBCOMM constellation of satellites. This commercial satellite network is dedicated to machine-to-machine communications. A secondary test objective successfully landed the Falcon 9 first stage on the ground, which has been a long-time goal for SpaceX to achieve.
A time exposure shows the rocket launch at left and the landing at right. The landing was proceeded by the rocket falling rapidly through the sky until its engines fired as it neared the ground before touching down at Landing Zone 1. An ear-splitting sonic boom occurred moments after the landing.
Part of the triangular-shaped landing gear can be seen at the base of the first stage as the Falcon 9 climbs skyward.
The flower-like petals of the landing gear deploy moments before touchdown at Landing Zone 1. The Falcon 9 first stage traveled 124 miles high before returning for a soft landing on the concrete pad of Landing Zone 1, the repurposed Launch Complex 13 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
The Falcon 9 first stage about to land. Sadly, the building obscured the actual landing.
Images processed to reveal some detail in the darkness of the 15-story tall Falcon 9 first stage as it lands. Almost lost in all the excitement of the landing was that the main mission to deliver the eleven satellites into orbit was successfully carried out.
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