SpaceX has released uncut footage of one of the latest Falcon 9 launches and landings, including an unprecedented sound on board the rocket during all stages of the flight.
The rocket in question, the Falcon 9 Booster B1059, ended months of delay when it finally took off on August 30, sending a new upper stage, payload launch, and an Argentine Earth-observing satellite en route to orbit. Known as SAOCOM 1B, it is the second of a pair of artificial aperture radar satellites launched by SpaceX that deployed from Falcon 9 less than 15 minutes after takeoff, followed by two payloads about 45 minutes later.
The Booster B1059 separated from the rest of the Falcon 9 after just over two minutes of launch and quickly flipped over to perform the booster burn – decelerating literally to zero from Mach 5 and then reinforcing several tens of miles toward the Florida coast. The missile finished its fourth launch with a gentle landing in Landing Zone-1, and effectively completed a 200 km (~ 120 mi) flight in under eight minutes at an average velocity much faster than the speed of sound.
In the enhanced camera video, SpaceX was launched unexpectedly after the mission was completed, one thing stands out above everything else: an uninterrupted audio recording of the missile from takeoff to landing. In the past, SpaceX has occasionally released a strange video from an enhanced Falcon 9 camera, the latest version of which was published in 2016. In another memorable case, SpaceX’s April 2018 launch of NASA’s TESS exoplanet observatory was blessed with enhanced uncut footage. Camera during live webcast. SpaceX didn’t technically release these footage on its own, but it was easy enough to cut from webcast to deliver a clean, uninterrupted rendition of the enhanced Falcon 9 launch and landing.
Regardless, in all of the previous instances and webcasting with enhanced camera shots, SpaceX has never included the audio. It is generally understood that most modern launch vehicles – including the Falcon 9 – have many high-fidelity microphones. Unexpectedly, multiple separate, time-synchronized audio recordings could be used to triangulate the source of missile hardware problems in the event of a malfunction – a technology SpaceX used to its advantage to investigate the Falcon 9’s first flight failure in 2015.
In this case, the sound does not serve any technical purpose but provides the best bird-ear perspective for the Falcon 9 launch to date. SpaceX’s SAOCOM 1B sound is nearly quadrupled, picking up the passenger-jet sound of Falcon 9’s 1D propeller turbine pumps, the short engine cut-off silence, the whistle and vibration of reentry into the atmosphere, and the sound of cold gas thrusts that maintain the missile’s position in a vacuum, The landing leg was even fired, among many other notable sounds.
Thanks to the relatively gentle, low-power landing as a result of LEO required by SAOCOM 1B, the Falcon 9 B1059 will likely be operational for fifth launch and landing in the very near future. The booster may have a chance to break the SpaceX rocket transformation record – currently held by the Falcon 9 B1058 with two launches with just 51 days apart.
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