You want homefries with those launch photos?
Elon Musk's company recently released photos (opens in new tab) of the 7:24 a.m. EST (1224 GMT) liftoff, and they're stunning, showing the workhorse rocket climbing to orbit with the rising sun just behind the Atlantic Ocean-facing pad at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.
Mere minutes after the epic shots were taken, the refurbished Falcon 9 first-stage booster aced its landing on a drone ship at sea as the GPS III satellite soared to its transfer orbit for the U.S. Space Force.
As you can see in the full-length launch video below, the Falcon 9 first stage separated as planned from the upper stage at 2 minutes and 40 seconds after liftoff from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canveral.
Then, less than nine minutes after launch, the booster flew back to Earth for a soft touchdown on the SpaceX drone ship "A Shortfall of Gravitas," enabling the rocket to be recycled for future missions.
The early-morning launch was visible across the Space Coast of Florida and attracted views from several photographers based in the area. Some captured it using remote cameras at the pad, while others stationed themselves at viewing areas surrounding the launch site to photograph the sunrise launch.
These are images taken by my remote cameras left at the pad a day ahead of #GPS ll 6 launching this morning atop a #SpaceX #Falcon9. 📸: @theresacross_ @SpaceflightIns pic.twitter.com/ehOeCUXPCsJanuary 19, 2023
Golden Sunrise Soar to Space for #SpaceX Space Force Falcon 9 launch of GPS 3 SV06 navsat at 724 AM ET short while ago from pad 40 with VAB at left. with bird flock fluttering overhead. @SpaceForceDoD @LockheedMartin. Seen from Indian River at Max Brewer Bridge pic.twitter.com/zrdY4XmvICJanuary 18, 2023
One more from @spacex #GPS launch this morning :) #spacecoast #floridabeaches #cocoabeach @FarryFaz pic.twitter.com/yKdihimR1lJanuary 18, 2023
The launch was SpaceX's fourth of 2023. Just a day later, the company went to space again from the opposite coast of the United States.
SpaceX sent 51 of its Starlink internet satellites to orbit on Thursday (Jan. 19) at 10:43 a.m. EST on another Falcon 9 rocket, this one rising from California's Vandenberg Space Force Base. The first stage nailed the landing on this booster's debut flight, on SpaceX's other drone ship, "Of Course I Still Love You."
Elizabeth Howell is the co-author of "Why Am I Taller (opens in new tab)?" (ECW Press, 2022; with Canadian astronaut Dave Williams), a book about space medicine. Follow her on Twitter @howellspace (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or Facebook (opens in new tab).