SpaceX is checking off milestones at an impressive pace lately. Their 12th resupply mission for NASA (CRS-11) to the International Space Station (ISS) on June 3 marked the 100th launch off historic Kennedy Space Center pad 39A, former launch site of the space shuttle and Apollo Saturn-V moon rockets before, and the mission also employs the company’s first reused Dragon capsule, flown previously on the CRS-4 mission in the fall of 2014.
But SpaceX also aimed for a secondary objective after putting Dragon on intercept for the ISS; landing the rocket’s first stage booster back at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station “Landing Zone (LZ) 1”, just a few miles south of 39A, and today they released some spectacular 4K aerial footage of the Falcon coming in to land.
The company has done so previously 3 times already, in 3 tries, and nailed it again June 3 shortly after launch.
SpaceX has also nailed offshore landings on their ‘drone ships’ six times, something they do when the mission being launched requires so much fuel there isn’t enough left for a landing attempt back at the launch site.
Looking ahead, the company is aiming to launch several commercial satellites this summer, both from Florida and Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., starting with launch of BulgariaSat-1 from 39A as soon as June 17. The launch will employ another reused booster too, which previously launched the first wave of ‘Iridium NEXT’ satellites last January from Vandenberg. This also makes it the first booster to launch missions on both coasts.
At the same time, preparations for their highly-anticipated inaugural launch of the mammoth Falcon Heavy rocket, a triple-barreled version of their current Falcon-9, are well underway, with testing on the individual rocket cores being conducted at SpaceX’s proving grounds in McGregor, TX.