I will say that I was a bit disappointed after walking outside of my Jacksonville, Florida home, tonight, to find that the sky was still awfully overcast. Thus, blocking my view of the SpaceX ORBCOMM-2 launch. This was disappointing, mainly, because back in January of this year, I went outside in the freezing cold of the early morning to watch the launch and landing attempt. I was able to see both the launch and the subsequent leveling of the rocket in the sky before it attempted the landing. All just a few steps from my front door. I was hoping for the same this time around. However, my sadness was short-lived when I remembered that the first non-barge landing attempt was going to occur, and I ran back to my computer to watch it all unfold.
If you weren't watching the livestream of the SpaceX ORBCOMM-2 launch and landing tonight, you missed out on seeing history occur right before your eyes. Don't worry, though! I've got you covered!
At this point, if you're like me, then you're all teary-eyed due to the awesomeness that you just watched. If not, then you're just without a soul and we're done here (I kid, I kid). Now that you're all hyped up, though, let me give some background on why this event is so damn EPIC.
This launch was a return-to-flight mission for SpaceX. They hadn't flown since June, when a Falcon 9 rocket, along with an unmanned Dragon capsule carrying supplies to the International Space Station, exploded two minutes after launch due to a faulty strut in the upper stage.
Not only was this launch an attempt to land the rocket, but it also proved that the Falcon 9 can push it's payload into orbit, reverse course, and come back down to Earth without needing to slingshot around the Earth.
After several unsuccessful attempts at landing on a barge at sea, this is the first attempt of a Falcon 9 rocket landing on an non-moving landing pad.
In order to attempt this first-in-history landing, the Falcon 9 had to perform some acrobatics before coming back through the Earth's atmosphere to the ground. Essentially, the rocket needed to flip around, using cold-gas thrusters, in order to come down at the correct angle for landing.
Once the rocket gets closer to the ground, lightweight, yet strong, carbon fiber landing legs deploy to provide a soft-as-possible landing on the surface.
All of the systems, while made by humans, are 100% autonomous once the rocket is launched, and are reacting and adjusting based on the real time data received by each system.
Now, that's just some of the many turning gears that helped pave the road for a successful landing. For further insight on the subject of landing rockets, a great jump-off point is this blog on SpaceX's site - The Why and How of Landing Rockets.
It's getting late on the East Coast, and my bed is calling my name. Before I go, I'll leave you with some more awesomeness from Landing Zone 1.
Live video from LZ-1 pic.twitter.com/Ve6gEXfOdh— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 22, 2015