While much of the United States was either asleep or liquidated on Saturday night, SpaceX was still busy.
The aerospace company sent one of its Falcon 9 rockets into the sky at about 12:30 a.m. Eastern Time in a night launch that launched a solid Sirius XM satellite called SXM-8 into Earth orbit. This was a smooth 125th mission for the company, also the 18th from 2021.
This was the third successful launch and landing of the Falcon 9 rocket, which made the most of the (literal) heavy lift. Unlike NASA’s rockets of the past, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 amplifier is designed for multiple use. After removing the payload from the Earth̵
The same powerful engine that helps it avoid being attracted to Earth is crucial for landing. The rocket’s main thruster fires as it descends to slow it down enough to make a safe landing. This is exactly what happened approximately nine minutes after the start of the night, as the Falcon 9 completed its third round trip with a perfect touchdown of the Just Read the Instructions aircraft.
While this landing took place, the bow cone of the rocket (also known as the fairing fairing) continued its ascent. Less than half an hour after the rocket’s initial launch, the outer shell of the nose cone peeled off, opening the way for the SXM-8 to enter orbit – which happened around 1:00 AM ET.
Space launches, of course, have become much more frequent in recent years as doors have opened to commercial space interests. In this case, the launch of the SXM-8 – like many other SpaceX launches so far – took off from Cape Canaveral in Florida, a facility owned by the Department of Defense, which is monitored by the US space forces.
Often or not, it’s still great to see human ingenuity send a rocket soaring into the stars.