SpaceX has been talking up its plans to launch its STP-2 mission; this is the first mission to launch using side boosters that had flown previously. The rocket launched in the early morning hours of Tuesday lifting off at 2:30 am ET from a launch pad at Cape Canaveral in Florida. The launch of STP-2 has been hailed at its most challenging mission yet as the massive Falcon 9 Heavy rocket was pushing 24 satellites into orbit with different orbits required for some satellites.
The need to launch a satellite into multiple orbits means that SpaceX has to make multiple burns. The primary customer for the mission is the US DoD, but it was also a rideshare mission. Shortly after the rocket launched, mission officials began to confirm that some of the satellites that needed lower orbits had been successfully deployed.
As we mentioned previously, among the satellites aboard the rocket were The Planetary Society’s solar sail project and an atomic clock that could change how spacecraft navigate in the future. One of the missions is testing a new green propellant for satellites. While the launch and satellite deployment is going well so far, not all went perfectly for SpaceX.
While the reflown side boosters both landed on ground pads in Florida, the center booster wasn’t so lucky. The center booster missed its mark and fell into the ocean. SpaceX has been unable so far to land all three boosters on a Falcon 9 Heavy launch. However, this launch did result in one major victory for SpaceX; it was able to catch the rocket’s fairing or nose cone.
The catch marks the first time that SpaceX has been able to grab a rocket nose cone, or fairing before it splashed into the ocean. The faring was captured by a ship at sea called “Ms. Tree.” Saving the fairing is a big deal, Elon Musk has said that a fairing costs around $6 million.