There was no surprise – Falcon-9 FT was successfully launched and delivered Dragon unmanned robotic cargo spacecraft to parking orbit. Spacecraft already started its journey to International Space Station with 2400 kg of payload including supplies, scientific experiments and International Docking Adapter inside unpressurized trunk in service module.
At 04:21 GMT Falcon-9 FT was still under fueling process on SLC-40 at Cape Canaveral AFS. Supercooled liquid oxygen was flowing to tanks of the rocket along with RP-1 which was cooled to little-under room temperature. Measuring 70 m in length and 3.7 m in diameter rocket was in the last phase of preparing before launch. Weather was still favorable and at 04:35 GMT countdown procedure already started. As usual, valves leading liquid oxygen to engines were opened and four minutes later at 04:39 GMT rocket was switched to internal power. Two minutes before ignition, at 04:43 GMT supporting tower was retracted and last tests of steering and avionics were conducted. One minute later Niagara water curtains were activated and rocket’s onboard computer took control over countdown. Punctually at 04:45 GMT nine Merlin-1D+ engines started to provide 7607 kN of thrust – Falcon-9 FT lifted off. At T+1’00” rocket reached altitude of 7 km and speed of 1000 km/h and was getting close to maximum pressure and stress point; MaxQ point was reached 13 seconds later. Next phase of the flight was main engine cut off at T+2’22”, which preceded separation of the booster and second stage six seconds later. One second later, second stage started its Merlin-1D+ engine to provide 943 kN of thrust. At that moment rocket was flying with speed of over 5600 km/h on altitude of 80 km.
From that point first stage started to flip for 180° to perform boostback burn with three Merlin-1D+ engines. After that, it started phase, when it is increasing altitude to 160 km to reduce speed and begun its return to Earth to position close to launch site. It looks different in case of landing at LZ-1, comparing to drone ship landing, where booster is not increasing altitude but it continues flight on its trajectory. Today, booster was moving nozzles of the engines towards to Earth again to prepare for entry burn. At T+6’30” booster started entry burn with utilization of three from nine engines. Last landing burn started at T+7’40” and booster landed on pad at SLC-13 at T+8’14”.
At T+6’30” second stage was on altitude of 210 km and was continuing flight with speed of 12000 km/h. At T+9’07” second stage was shut down and Dragon was continuing flight on atop of second stage remaining on ballistic trajectory. Spacecraft was deployed at T+9’40” and two minutes later it deployed its solar arrays. After 34 orbits it will reach International Space Station on Monday, 20th July.