Transporter-2 The Ride Share Continues
June 29th at 2:56 PM Est atop a Falcon 9 rocket from SLC-40 at Canaveral Space Force Station
For the second installment of another SpaceX franchise, the Transporter series we saw eighty-eight satellites being lifted to orbit. This time to make things more interesting however they went into a polar orbit, and also a RTLS (Return To Landing Site) mission. Polar orbits require rockets launching from the coast of Florida to take a Southern trajectory, skirting along the sunshine state coast line high above. Return To Landing Site means that the first stage booster did not land on one of their drone ships at sea, but rather back onshore at LZ-1 which sits just a few miles south of the launch complex at Canaveral Space Force Station. Though the first Transporter mission still holds the record for most satellites launched on a single rocket, one-hundred-forty-three, Transporter-2 launched more mass than that mission, along with the two previous mentioned differences the sequel definitely upped the ante this time around.
Delayed from a day earlier because a wayward helicopter flew into restricted airspace just seconds prior to launch we saw today's mission go off with out a hitch. Founder and CEO of SpaceX Elon Musk took to twitter after the scrub to bash the FAA once again, this time talking about the ridiculously gigantic no-fly zones surrounding his rocket launches. Of course safety is of the upmost importance with no launches taking place if there is a one in six million chance a human being will be injured. Musk still felt that the FAA is a little too over protective and we will never become a space fairing civilization with certain rules and regulations in place.
Weather in the surrounding area was less than ideal and just about an hour ahead of the T-minus zero mark was saw a light rain on the launch pad. This didn't stop SpaceX from proceeding to load in the liquid propellant the Falcon 9 rockets use as fuel and launching forty-five minutes after that. With clouds all around and storms on the Western horizon the company once again found the margin they needed to get these payloads into orbit, and then return the booster back to its landing zone. More often than not the boosters touch done on one of two autonomous drone ships off shore for launches. It all has to do with how heavy the payload is and its desired orbit on whether or not the Falcon 9 has enough fuel to return back to base. It is a rare treat to see one return and feel the triple sonic booms as it touched down. Hundreds lined the pier and shore at the near by Jetty Park to experience the excitement of what looked to be like a rocket landing right on top of their heads. It has been since December of 2020 since we last had a RTLS mission, that of NROL-108, and only the twentieth ever.
Fact being this was another polar launch also made the mission doubly as rare. Only the third polar launch from Cape Canaveral since the 1960's, all of the current being SpaceX missions. Heading South East at launch the rocket then turned South to skirt the Florida coast as it made its way towards Antarctica. Just as the first stage was touching down back on Earth the second stage still pushing the payload along was crossing over the Caribbean Sea and the Bahamas. It then passed Antarctica before heading back North over the Indian Ocean.
This was the eighth flight for SpaceX Falcon 9 booster 1060, and the third booster to reach an eight flight status in the last six months. A fitting celebration as this launch came exactly one year, to the day after it launched its first ever mission, the GPSIII-SV03 navigation satellite.
This also comes as the twentieth launch of the year for SpaceX, which keeps them on track for their targeted over forty launches of the Falcon 9 rocket in 2021. A lofty goal considering last year the company only got up twenty-six of them, but we are only half way through the year and a third drone ship is reported to soon be in route to Cape Canaveral with the first drone ship now in route to California. Between three launch sites on two coasts of the U.S. I feel it should be no issue for the company to easy break last years record.
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