Watch: Two SpaceX Falcon Heavy boosters make synchronized landings

The powerful rocket’s first flight since 2019 went off without a hitch, delivering Space Force payloads to geosynchronous Earth orbit.
By | Published: November 3, 2022 | Last updated on May 18, 2023
This still from SpaceX’s coverage of Falcon Heavy’s USSF-44 mission for the U.S. Space Force shows the rocket’s two side boosters safely touching down so they can be reused for later missions.

For the first time since June 2019, SpaceX successfully launched their powerful Falcon Heavy rocket at 9:41 A.M. ET on Tuesday, Nov. 1. The Falcon Heavy lifted off from a foggy Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The launch was part of the U.S. Space Force’s USSF-44 mission, which saw the Falcon Heavy deploy two classified satellites into geosynchronous orbit around Earth. The mission’s smaller payload is a microsatellite called TETRA-1, built by Millennium Space Systems, according to a company news release. Little information is available about USSF-44’s larger payload.

Shortly after launch, the Falcon Heavy’s two side boosters safely landed themselves back on Earth. The rocket’s core stage, however, did not attempt to land, instead plummeting into the sea after deploying its payloads, as planned.

You can watch the launch of the Falcon Heavy, as well as the vertical landing of its two boosters, in the video directly below, courtesy of SpaceX.

A flight to remember

About 2 minutes and 32 seconds after liftoff (T+02:32), the Falcon Heavy core stage jettisoned its two side boosters, which are modified Falcon 9 first stages. The two boosters then followed nominal trajectories back to their planned landing zones at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

At T+6:50, at an altitude of about 29 miles (47 kilometers), the side boosters briefly reignited their engines for a speed-shedding reentry burn. As they continued to plummet through the sky, deployable grid fins helped the boosters guide themselves to their designated landing sites.

At T+8:00, the boosters again reignited for a final landing burn. Eight seconds later, sonic booms cracked above the landing sites as the boosters neared their targets. Perfectly captured on video, the two flying towers then effortlessly touched down nearly simultaneously, as if starring in a sci-fi film.

This pair of landings mark the 150th and 151st successful landing of an orbital-class rocket — but the novelty of watching rockets autonomously return to Earth has still not worn off.