a stage of the Falcon 9 rocket seen from the sky?

“I was quietly sitting on my sofa, when I looked out the window, attracted by an opaque, bluish light in the sky”, begins Jean-Baptiste Léopold, this resident of Crugey, amateur of astronomy and aerospace . The forty-year-old wants to see more: he gets up and stares at this strange luminous object “which had a north-west, south-east trajectory”.

“At first, I thought it was the reflections of the moon on the clouds,” he says. Except that, that evening, the weather is perfectly clear. “I said to myself that it was not possible: so then I thought of a missile, perhaps launched by Vladimir”, smiles our interlocutor.

According to his words, the object advanced on the horizon “perhaps horizontally or vertically and quite slowly”. Difficult, indeed, to estimate distances and speeds in the atmosphere, without reference point.

Other Côte-d’Oriens have also witnessed the phenomenon, like here in Sombernon

Jean-Baptiste even has time to call his partner “to be sure he hadn’t smoked the carpet”, and to trigger his smartphone, to make a video sequence of one and a half minutes. “This Friday, I was so intrigued that I talked about it around me; a friend put me on the path by explaining to me that other people in France thought they had seen a piece of the Falcon 9 rocket, launched at the same time last night from the United States, ”he continues.

The track seems to be the right one: Thursday evening, in fact, SpaceX launched its 42nd batch of Starlink internet satellites. The partly reusable rocket took off from the Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) of the Cape Canaveral space station in Florida on a west-east trajectory and was orbited by flying over northern France.

For the record, Elon Musk’s firm has developed a new type of spacecraft, more ecological, and whose two main launchers separate 2.30 m after takeoff to re-land on earth, after having propelled the payload to more than 7000 km/h. The second propellant, ensuring entry into orbit, is dropped further away, at an altitude of 200 km and nearly 27,000 km/hour, but without being reused since it largely disintegrates on its return. in the earth’s atmosphere.

According to several sources, it was this stage of the rocket descending into the Earth’s atmosphere that was seen. The characteristic spiraling luminous halo is caused by the “post-deorbit-combustion fuel vent (opening)”, which allows this large steel tube to descend well to earth so as not to become space waste.

SpaceX is considering, moreover, the possibility of also re-landing, in a controlled manner, this gigapart of Falcon 9 measuring 12 meters long and weighing 4 tonnes empty.

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