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SpaceX's latest Starlink launch provided for yet another set of breathtaking views as the Falcon 9 rocket took off from the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California yesterday. The launch was SpaceX's 49th for the year, as it marked a rapid cadence that has seen the company surpass its total launches for last year with two months remaining until 2022 comes to an end. Visuals of the launch shared by SpaceX chief Mr. Elon Musk and a photographer from California marked a rare occasion that the Falcon 9 rocket's first and second stages and its fairing were caught together in a single shot, with the nighttime launch presenting some spectacular visuals.
SpaceX Launches Latest Batch Of Starlink Satellites From California
Yesterday's launch was also SpaceX's 187th launch to date and it marked the 129th time that a reused Falcon 9 booster took to the skies. For this particular booster, the flight was the eighth time that it successfully took off and landed, making rocket reusability a natural part of SpaceX's daily operations.
The launch was covered not only from California, but also from Arizona, and several images were shared on different social media platforms. All of these showed the Falcon 9 leaving a dense vapor trail in its wake, which had also presented remarkable views during an earlier SpaceX launch in October.
One image, shared by Mr. Musk, appeared to be taken high above the clouds and it saw the Falcon 9 flying to space in front of the setting Sun. The view presented a unique combination of the glowing red horizon, the blackness underneath it and the Falcon 9 and the Moon visible in one frame.
However, while Mr. Musk's image was striking for a near perfect balance of colors, it did not show the rocket's different stages in all their glory. As part of its launch, the Falcon 9 is propelled by a first stage that generates 1.7 million pounds of thrust through nine Merlin 1D rocket engines, enabling it to escape Earth's gravity.
Once its job is done, the first stage separates from the rocket's second stage, and the latter continues the rest of the journey on its own courtesy of a single Merlin vacuum engine. Immediately after the stage separation, the second stage's fairings, which are the protective coverings for the satellites, also separate.
A set of photographs from a photographer based in Glendale, California, Scott Lowe, managed to capture all these different components in a single frame and inside the Falcon 9 second stage's plume. They were taken immediately after the stage separation and showed the second and first stages lined up perfectly together with their engines lit up at the same time and the fairings visible as tiny dots near the first stage as they were jettisoned. At the time of stage and fairing separation, the two stages were traveling at roughly 8,000 kilometers per hour.
I mean just wow. I saw this in my lens but looking at the back of the camera in low light, I thought these were all going to be a blur. When I knocked back the brightness in the RAWs you can make out the whole sequence. Just awesome. 🤩 pic.twitter.com/K28v1YbjfY
— Scott Lowe (@tropicostation) October 28, 2022
However, while Scott's images are the best images of the launch, they are not the only ones. Viewers in Arizona were also provided with stunning Falcon 9 visuals, and two shared their snaps on the social media platform Reddit.
While the Falcon 9 has stepped up the pace in providing us with striking visuals in October, its larger brother, the Falcon Heavy is set to launch in November. This launch will mark the rare occasion when three Falcon 9s will simultaneously launch and separate, with at least two of them also slated to land back on Earth.
SpaceX has confirmed that the static fire test of its and America's largest rocket went successfully at the Launch Complex 39A of the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and that the Falcon Heavy is now slated to take to the skies on Tuesday, November 1st. The launch, which will see the rocket generate an eye popping 5.1 million pounds of thrust, will be the first Falcon Heavy launch since 2019.