This morning, SpaceX successfully landed its Falcon 9 rocket on solid ground again, after launching the vehicle from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The vehicle’s first stage – the 14-story core of the rocket that contains the main engines – touched down at the company’s landing pad called Landing Zone 1, located just off the coast of the Cape. It’s the fourth time SpaceX has landed one of its rockets on land, and the 10th time the company has successfully recovered a rocket post-launch.
Today’s rocket took off at 7:15AM ET, lofting a secret spy satellite dubbed NROL-76 for the National Reconnaissance Office. It’s the first mission that SpaceX has done for the US military, after receiving certification to launch satellites for the Air Force in 2015. Since this was a national security launch, not much is known about the purpose of today’s mission, or the satellite’s intended orbit.
Additionally, the live broadcast of today’s launch was a bit different than SpaceX’s commercial missions. The live stream only showed viewers shots of the rocket’s initial descent, and didn’t reveal many views of the rocket as it ventured deeper into space. Instead, the audience was treated to multiple views of the Falcon 9 first stage as it made its descent back to Earth. In fact, there was a nearly continuous shot of the falling rocket taken from the ground — an angle of the landing we’ve never quite seen captured in the online broadcast before.