Falcon 9 puts on a show in the Californian skies

Falcon 9 second stage exhaust plume (Credit: SpaceX)

Last night at 9:09 p.m. PT (04:09 UTC), SpaceX successfully launched 15 V2 mini Starlink satellites to low Earth orbit from Space Launch Complex 4 East at Vandenberg Space Force Base, California.

Following a last-second aborted launch attempt the previous night, SpaceX teams performed checkouts of the Falcon 9 and determined another attempt to launch the next-gen satellites was good to go. During the previous attempt, the launch was held early in the countdown due to a “perceived leak” in the second stage, then eventually, the automated abort at T-minus 5 seconds.

The views on the webcast started out with nothing but fog, SpaceX even went as far as to add an outline of the Falcon 9 to the screen so viewers could visualize the rocket through the thick Vandenberg fog. The countdown proceeded normally, and the Falcon 9 took off to the South, parallelling the California coastline.

Following a two-and-a-half-minute burn of the Falcon 9 first stage, the engines shut down, and the first and second stages separated. Falcon 9 booster 1071 then landed on the droneship ‘Of Course I Still Love You’ nine-and-a-half-minutes after launch, marking its 10th successful mission.

While the first stage was returning to Earth, the second stage was climbing to the proper altitude, which brought it back into the sunlight and lit up the exhaust plume creating the ‘twilight effect’ which prompted people in Southern California and even as far as Arizona to look up and watch as the rocket soared through the skies.

The 15 V2 mini Starlinks then separated approximately 15 minutes after launch. That now brings the total of Starlink satellites launched to 4,837.

These satellites will now go through checkouts as they rise to their operational orbits.

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Falcon 9 puts on a show in the Californian skies
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