SpaceX has released uncut footage of one of its most recent Falcon 9 launches and landings, including unprecedented onboard audio from the rocket through all phases of flight.
The rocket in question, Falcon 9 booster B1059, ended months of delays when it finally took off on August 30, sending a new upper stage, payload fairing, and an Argentine Earth observation satellite into orbit. Known as SAOCOM 1B, the second in a pair of synthetic aperture radar satellites launched by SpaceX and deployed by the Falcon 9 less than 15 minutes after takeoff, followed by two rideshare payloads some 45 minutes later.
The B1059 Booster separated from the rest of the Falcon 9 just over two minutes after launch and quickly spun to perform a boostback burn, literally slowing to zero from Mach 5 and then climbing several dozen miles towards the Florida coast. The rocket concluded its fourth launch with a gentle landing in landing zone-1
In the SpaceX recall camera video released unexpectedly after mission completion, one thing stands out above all else: an uninterrupted audio recording of the rocket from takeoff to landing. In the past, SpaceX has occasionally released the odd onboard camera video of a Booster Falcon 9, the most recent instance of which was released in 2016. In another memorable case, SpaceX’s April 2018 launch of the observatory NASA’s exoplanet TESS was blessed with an uncut booster of camera footage during the live webcast. SpaceX never technically released that footage on its own, but it was easy enough to cut it from the webcast to offer a clean, uninterrupted view of the launch and landing of a Booster Falcon 9.
Regardless, in all of the above cases and webcasts featuring booster camera footage, SpaceX never included audio. It is generally known that most modern launch vehicles, including the Falcon 9, are equipped with numerous high-fidelity microphones. Non-intuitively, multiple separate, time-synchronized audio recordings can be used to literally triangulate the source of the rocket’s hardware problems in the event of a failure – a technique SpaceX used to its advantage to investigate the Falcon 9’s first flight failure. in 2015.
In this case, the audio serves no technical purpose, but offers the best bird-eared perspective of a Falcon 9 launch ever released. Accelerated by roughly a factor of four, SpaceX’s SAOCOM 1B audio captures the jet moan of the Falcon 9’s Merlin 1D turbopump passenger jet, the brief silence of engine shutdown, the whistle and vibration of atmospheric reentry, the thud cold gas thrusters that maintain the rocket’s attitude in a vacuum, and even the sound of the landing leg unfolding, among many other notable sounds.
Thanks to a relatively gentle, low-energy landing as a result of the low Earth orbit required by SAOCOM 1B, the Falcon 9 B1059 will likely be turned for a fifth launch and landing in the near future. The booster may even have a chance to break SpaceX’s turnaround record currently held by the Falcon 9 B1058 with two launches just 51 days apart.
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