Private spaceflight company SpaceX has successfully launched two Falcon 9 reusable rockets within 48 hours of one another.
According to Spaceflight Now, SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 from California’s Central Coast two days after sending a rocket into orbit from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Each rocket sent its first stage back through the atmosphere to land vertically on a strategically placed barge.
The tightly scheduled launches and landings mark the fastest turnaround time yet undertaken by SpaceX from separate launch pads. The company may see rapid-fire launches occur more often after it reactivates another launch pad at Cape Canaveral and adds a Texas launch site in 2018.
The first launch, from Florida, featured a reused Falcon 9 booster and delivered a Bulgarian communications satellite into orbit. The second rocket carried a payload of 10 new satellites for Iridium’s voice and data relay network. The satellites were delivered into one of the six orbital pathways used by Iridium, already containing over 60 of the company’s communications satellites.
The second Falcon 9, launched from California, sported four newly upgraded titanium grid fins experiencing their first flight. The newly designed, larger grid fins should better survive re-entry than their predecessors and not require replacement before a second use.
“New titanium grid fins worked even better than expected,” Elon Musk of SpaceX wrote in a tweet. “Should be capable of an indefinite number of flights with no service.”
The larger grid fins also allow the booster to land in windier weather, as was the case with the California landing. The first stage booster landed itself upright on a drone ship called “Just Read the Instructions” during high winds only eight minutes after launch.