SpaceX is launching so many Falcon 9 rocket missions that it’s almost regular. “Another Falcon 9 launch, oh no. What’s for dinner?” But every now and then, we get a new viewpoint on a mission, and my enthusiasm for rockets is reignited. Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX, posted a stunning image of a Falcon 9 second-stage deorbit burn on Thursday.
It’s not the highest-resolution view you’ll ever see, but the image and video are noteworthy since they were captured from the perspective of a Starlink satellite. The action is more visible in the video clip. Look past the series of satellites floating in space to the upper right corner for a little white item. It appears to float there at first, then bursts away to the right like a bat out of hell.
Here’s what’s going on. The Falcon 9 rocket, SpaceX’s workhorse rocket capable of delivering both payloads and people, consists of two stages. The first handles the hard lifting of takeoff and then returns to Earth for reuse. The payload is delivered to orbit by the second stage. The second stage will eventually burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere. The deorbit burn allows it to securely dispose of itself.
SpaceX has started launching Starlinks into orbit in order to create a global broadband network. The satellites have sparked debate because they can appear as unwanted streaks of light in astronomical observations.
Musk’s video also raises concerns about Starlink’s camera capability. I contacted SpaceX to inquire about Starlink cameras, how many satellites might have them, and what their primary role is. If I hear back, I’ll let you know.
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