On Sunday, August 14, SpaceX launched a Japanese satellite into orbit, the JSAT 16, as part of a beautiful night launch, topped off by a perfect landing of the rocket's first stage on SpaceX's ocean-going barge "Just Read The Instructions".
Image credit: SpaceX
JCSAT 16 was launched to geostationary transfer orbit (GTO), an orbit much further out than a low Earth orbit (LEO) destination such as the International Space Station. Since Falcon 9 had to travel further, it had little fuel left prior to re-entry, and thus fewer options to maneuver using controlled burns to reach the landing destination. A Falcon 9 returning from geostationary transfer orbit lands harder than one returning from a mission to the ISS. After a previous mission to GTO, Falcon 9's recovered first stage listed visibly to one side on the barge as it returned to port, an indication that at least some of the rocket's struts and dampers had been pushed to the limits of their capability during touchdown.
And she's back!! Another successful drone ship landing for @SpaceX!!— Claudia Taake (@ct_la) August 14, 2016
Congrats @elonmusk & team! pic.twitter.com/W3hXaPVg6R
Below is SpaceX's full webcast for the launch and landing. As always, the entire video is worth watching, but if you want to skip to the good parts, the legend on the bottom tells you when the launch, landing and payload delivery events occur.