SpaceX has silently published an unlisted video featuring a range of new views – most in crisp 4K resolution – of Falcon 9 launch and landing operations from 2017 through the end of 2018, providing some of the most detailed perspectives yet of the company’s workhorse rocket.
Despite the oddly buried nature of the video, unlisted on YouTube and hidden in plain sight at the top of the company’s Falcon 9 website page, it still offers a hint of the sheer quantity of content SpaceX has acquired after multiple years of operations and dozens upon dozens of Falcon 9 launches. Even further, almost all of the clips included in the 60-second ‘overview’ are likely the original-quality recordings generated while simultaneously streaming the same perspectives featured in past SpaceX webcasts, a feat that requires significant compression and reduced quality.
Prior to a major website update that went live on March 3rd, 2019 (presumably coordinated to follow the successful launch of Crew Dragon), the Falcon 9 section of SpaceX’s website had been effectively untouched – aside from minor modifications to performance statistics and some written descriptions – since September 2015, a period of around 42 months. In March, SpaceX updated all of its website’s Falcon and Dragon sections, including new descriptions and the first official renders of Falcon 9 and Heavy in their latest Block 5 configurations, as well as a modernized section dedicated to the just-debuted Crew Dragon spacecraft.
Most notably, of course, was an unlisted YouTube video linked at the top of the Falcon 9 page, offering 4K views of launches as recent December 2018’s SSO-A, the first time ever that the same Falcon 9 booster flew for the third time. Booster B1046.3 kicked off the video with a truly spectacular perspective of the rocket lifting off from SpaceX’s Vandenberg Air Force Base launch pad, easily one of the most beautiful (and equally significant) Falcon 9 launches ever.
Above is another exceptional star of the Falcon 9 overview video, showing several pre-Block 5 boosters at different points during the final minute or so of their return-to-launch-site (RTLS) recoveries at one of SpaceX’s Landing Zones. Although the quality was inherently far lower, all of these angles are immediately familiar to anyone who has watched a significant number of SpaceX’s excellent launch webcasts, most of which end up featuring glimpses of streamed tracking shots like those above.
Aside from the quasi-public views featured in this video, the incredible success of reusability has lead SpaceX to routinely install dozens of cameras – often off-the-shelf GoPros and other action cams – throughout Falcon 9’s first stage, something that executive Hans Koenigsmann has stated has been a boon for improving reliability and better understanding what SpaceX rockets go through during launch, reentry, and landing. One can only begin to imagine the countless terabytes of footage SpaceX has gathered over years and dozens of launches.
Up next on SpaceX’s manifest is the second-ever launch of Falcon Heavy for what will be the powerful rocket’s commercial debut, nominally placing the 6000 kg (13,200 lb) Arabsat 6A communications satellite into a high-energy geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) as early as April 7th. This will further be the first launch of Falcon Heavy in a Block 5 configuration and will see both side boosters return to SpaceX LZ-1 and LZ-2, with the center core attempting a landing aboard drone ship
Catch SpaceX’s 2018 “Falcon 9 Overview” in full below. Fingers crossed that SpaceX’s decision to publish this relatively unique video is a hint of more to come in 2019.
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