SpaceX Falcon 9 launch return

Screengrab via SpaceX/YouTube

Watch SpaceX stick the landing after a secret mission for a U.S. spy agency

These videos never get old.


Josh Katzowitz

Internet Culture

Posted on May 1, 2017   Updated on May 24, 2021, 3:57 pm CDT

Watching SpaceX plant a rocket directly on its landing pad or drone barge after returning space is always a cool experience. But when the reusable Falcon 9 rocket blasted a super-secret payload into space Monday, we got to watch something totally new.

As the Verge points out, it was the first time we’ve seen a long shot of the Falcon 9 separating from the second stage of the rocket and then returning directly back to earth for a perfect landing. We don’t know much about what was in the part of the rocket that continued to space, except that it’s for the National Reconnaissance Office. According to CNN, it’s some kind of surveillance satellite that will be orbited in an unknown place—and that was the reason the cameras didn’t follow it.

Instead, we got to watch the first stage of the rocket spend eight minutes returning to Landing Zone 1.

You can watch the rocket separate at about the 14:00 mark, or start at the beginning for commentary from one of SpaceX’s mechanical design engineers on the launch, the entry burn (where the engines ignite to slow the rocket down as it plummets to the earth’s surface), and the landing at Kennedy Space Center.

This is the 10th time SpaceX has successfully landed a rocket, coming about a month after it became the first transport space service to successfully reuse a space-bound rocket.

As John Federspiel, the MC for the livestream event, says after the successful touchdown, “Another good day for us at SpaceX. It’s a beautiful sight to see.”

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*First Published: May 1, 2017, 1:23 pm CDT