SpaceX launches first polar launch from Florida in 60 years
SpaceX has successfully launched the SAOCOM-1B satellite for the Argentinian Space Agency, CONAE – the first polar trajectory launch from Florida’s Space Coast in 60 years.
With this successful launch a new precedent is set for polar launches, proving the capability and safety of polar launch inclinations from Cape Canaveral. The launch could mean an increase in cadence in launches from the Cape, and a decrease in launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, which until now has been the exclusive launch site for polar inclinations.
While the launch was originally planned as part of a double header with another Falcon 9 laden with Starlink satellites from Kennedy Space Center’s LC-39A, that launch was delayed due to weather constraints during pre-launch processing.
Following launch, the rocket flew a dogleg path to the south, flying alongside the east coast of Florida and over Cuba. As part of the mission, the first stage booster, B1059.4, performed a Return To Launch Site landing, guiding itself back to Cape Canaveral. Once above Landing Zone 1, it successfully deployed its legs and landed softly, beginning the multi-stage process of preparing it for re-use. The SpaceX Fleet was also represented in the area between Cuba and the Bahamas, where “Ms. Chief”, one of the fairing recovery ships, was able to recover both of the fairings by soft water landings.
Matt Haskell is a published aviation and spaceflight photographer and writer based in Merritt Island Florida. Born and raised outside Edwards Air Force Base and NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center, he moved to Florida’s Space Coast and began photographing and reporting spaceflight professionally full time in 2018.