CAPE CANAVERAL FLORIDA: At the top of a two-hour launch window, SpaceX launched their first rocket of 2018. The rocket launched from the recently rebuilt Space Launch Complex 40. The mission, code named Zuma is a mystery. The only clue are the words Northrup Grumman on the payload fairing.
The various phases of Falcon 9 in flight, captured in this single, 472 second exposure from Jetty Park. Photo credit: Michael Seeley / We Report Space
Observers across the Space Coast had a moment to panic as the first and second stages separated at T+2:24. The second stage engines started at T+2:25 and the first stage boostback burn started at T+2:33. During those eight seconds, the gasses from both spacecraft began pulsing. Observers thought they were witnessing a launch anomaly. In reality, the spacecraft separation was catching some light from the setting sun and putting on an 8-second show similar to the December 22, 2017 launch of Iridium from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California where the setting sun made the exhaust plume visible all the way to Tucson Arizona.
Falcon 9 dual pulses, with the first stage at the top and the second stage at the bottom. Photo ...