SpaceX successfully launched and landed Falcon 9 on Sunday and marked important milestones Elon Musk's company.
SpaceX Falcon 9 successfully launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, at around 7:18 p.m. ET. It carried with it the SAOCOM-1B satellite. SAOCOM 1B is an Earth observation satellite that will be doing the job of taking radar images for scientists and first responders. It is the second of two satellites, the first being SAOCOM 1A.
Falcon 9 first stage lands at Landing Zone 1 to complete this booster’s fourth flight pic.twitter.com/tUtAcKmIFn — SpaceX (@SpaceX) August 31, 2020
SAOCOM 1B will work alongside with SAOCOM 1A and COSMO-SkyMed X-band satellites. The SAOCOM satellites will help in providing data for the agriculture sector. In particular, scientists would use these satellites to create a soil moisture map by taking advantage of their L-Band capabilities.
After launching SAOCOM 1B and two rideshare payloads to orbit, Falcon 9’s first stage returns to Earth and lands at Landing Zone 1 — completing SpaceX’s first polar orbit mission from Florida pic.twitter.com/dOeZEaKFAR — SpaceX (@SpaceX) August 31, 2020
SpaceX's 100th flight
Space X was also set to launch 60 Starlink satellite but was rescheduled due to bad weather. SpaceX almost did not launch Falcon 9 that will carry SAOCOM 1B that day, as well. Thankfully, the weather improved later in the day.
In a Tweet, SpaceX wrote, "After launching SAOCOM 1B and two rideshare payloads to orbit, Falcon 9's first stage returns to Earth and lands at Landing Zone 1 - completing SpaceX's first polar orbit mission from Florida".
The August 30 launch marks the 100th flight of SpaceX since 2006. Of those 100 launches, 96 were successful. Falcon 1 had five launches, three of them failed. Falcon 9 had 92 and failed only once. It was only Falcon Heavy that did not have failed launches. A Forbes report said it also marked the 58th successful rocket landings for the company.
Interestingly, last Sunday's launch is also the first polar launch in Florida in more than 50 years. SAOCOM 1B was initially set to launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The last successful polar launch from Florida was in 1969. That was when ESSA-9, a weather satellite for the Environmental Science Services Administration, was sent into orbit.
In 1969, a cow was reported to have been killed by falling rocket debris that resulted in protests against rocket launches. Since then, all polar orbit missions were launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
To make a successful landing, SpaceX had to do a "dog-leg" maneuver. That allowed it to turn right and make its way around the southern corridor of Florida.
Bad weather spoiled planned twin launches
SpaceX was supposed to make two Falcon 9 launches last Sunday, News 9 report said. Only nine hours would have separated the launches. According to the original schedule, the first to launch was a Falcon 9 carrying 60 Starlink internet relay satellites. The rocket will launch from the Kennedy Space Center. The SAOCOM 1B mission was set to follow and launch from the Air Force station.
SpaceX then later postponed the launch of the Starlinks due to inclement weather. "Next launch opportunity is Tuesday, September 1 at 9:29 a.m. EDT, pending Range acceptance," SpaceX tweeted. It seemed that SAOCOM 1B would suffer the same fate early in the day. Eventually, the mission got the go-signal and launched at around 7:18 p.m.