The SpaceX RADARSAT Constellation mission was launched on June 12 from Vandenburg Air Force Base. With the pad shrouded in fog, the liftoff of the mighty Falcon 9 from Space Launch Complex 4E (SLC-4) was completely obscured to viewers who tuned into the live stream. Moments after liftoff, however, persistent viewers were rewarded with a view of the rocket breaking through the boundary of the fog into the clear skies above.
With its nine Merlin 1D engines producing 7,607 kilonewtons (1,7 million pounds of thrust), the Falcon 9 raced past 1,000 kph (620 mph) in less than 60 seconds carrying its 4,200 kg (9260 lb) payload. Just under a minute and a half later, all nine engines cut off and first stage separation was completed successfully. With second stage ignition following soon after, the three RADARSAT satellites were on their way to a Sun-synchronous orbit.
As the rocket’s second stage powered through a six-minute burn, the Falcon 9 booster made its way back to Vandenburg. Approximately eight minutes after taking off, the booster touched down just 300 meters from SLC-4 at Landing Zone 4. Although fog obstructed views from the ground, the booster’s onboard camera gave live stream viewers a rare uninterrupted glimpse of the touchdown.
Several hundred kilometres above the Earth, the Falcon 9 second stage had completed the first of two planned burns and was in coast phase. The coast phase was interrupted 50 minutes into the mission with the ignition of the Merlin 1D Vacuum engine. The second of the two planned burns lasted for just four seconds orientating the rocket’s second stage for a pinpoint deployment.
The three RADARSAT satellites drifted off into space one at a time being released at 3-minute intervals. Following a successful deployment, the rocket’s second stage completed a destructive burn doing its part to keep space clean.