A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched the Spanish Paz radar imaging satellite into orbit on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018, along with two prototype internet service satellites. See amazing photos of the mission in this slideshow.
Up, Up and Away
The Falcon 9 rocket's first stage was making its second trip into space, carrying the Paz satellite into orbit for Spanish operator Hisdesat. The booster was not recovered for additional use after the Feb. 22 launch.
Powerful Take Off
This amazing long-exposure view shows the Falcon 9 as a pillar of flame launching into the predawn California sky. The Paz satellite will monitor Earth in radar wavelengths from 319-mile-high, quasi-polar orbit. The Paz satellite is set to last at least 5.5 years.
This view (another long-exposure image) shows the Falcon 9 rocket streaking upward to the point of stage separation (the plume at the top). Riding into orbit on the Falcon 9 alongside the Paz satellite were two of SpaceX's own Starlink demo satellites (called Tintin A & B). Starlink is envisioned to be a network of thousands of satellites designed to provide broadband internet service around the world.
A Beautiful Launch
This spectacular view captures the moment of stage separation of the Falcon 9 rocket launch carrying the Paz and Starlink satellites into orbit.
The View from L.A.
SpaceX's Falcon 9 launched on Feb. 22, 2018 occurred at 6:17 a.m. EST, making it a predawn liftoff for observers in Southern California. Here, the Falcon 9 rocket is visible arcing through the sky after its liftoff from Vandenberg Air Force Base.
Trying Something New
Using a boat called Mr. Steven outfitted with a huge net, SpaceX tried to recover the clamshell-like payload fairing that protected the Paz and Starlink demo satellites during launch. The fairing was fitted with a parafoil, set to deploy and slow the piece's descent back to Earth.
Close but No Cigar
The plan to catch the payload fairing ultimately failed by only a few hundred meters. At least half of the payload fairing (shown here) was recovered intact, from the surface of the Pacific Ocean. SpaceX will try again later in 2018.
As the Paz satellite separates from SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket, SpaceX's own Starlink satellites can be seen in the second stage. The two Starlink demo satellites later separated successfully as well, marking an end to the successful mission.
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Christine Lunsford joined the Space.com team in 2010 as a freelance producer and later became a contributing writer, covering astrophotography images, astronomy photos and amazing space galleries and more. During her more than 10 years with Space.com, oversaw the site's monthly skywatching updates and produced overnight features and stories on the latest space discoveries. She enjoys learning about subjects of all kinds.