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

“I was sitting quietly 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 space travel. 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 moon’s reflections on the clouds,” he says. Except that the weather that night is absolutely clear. “I told myself that it was not possible: then I thought of a missile, perhaps fired by Vladimir”, smiles our interlocutor.

According to his words, the object was moving along the horizon “perhaps horizontally or vertically and quite slowly”. It is actually difficult to estimate distances and speeds in the atmosphere without a 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 make sure he hadn’t smoked the carpet” and to trigger his smartphone to make a video sequence of one and a half minutes. “Last Friday I was so fascinated 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 that was launched at the same time last night from the United States,” he continues.

The track appears to be right: On Thursday night, SpaceX did indeed launch its 42nd batch of Starlink Internet satellites. The partially reusable rocket took off from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at the Cape Canaveral space station in Florida on a west-east trajectory and circled by flying over northern France.

For good measure, Elon Musk’s company has developed a new type of spacecraft, more ecological, and whose two main launchers separate 2.30 m after takeoff to land on the ground again, after driving the payload to more than 7000 km/h. The other propellant that ensures access to orbit falls further away, at an altitude of 200 km and almost 27,000 km/h, but without being recycled, as it largely disintegrates upon re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere.

According to several sources, it is this phase of the rocket falling into the Earth’s atmosphere that was seen. The characteristic spiral-shaped glowing halo is caused by the “post-deorbit-combustion fuel vent” which allows this large steel tube to descend well to the ground to avoid becoming space debris.

SpaceX is also considering the possibility of also re-landing, in a controlled manner, this gigapart of the Falcon 9, which measures 12 meters long and weighs 4 tons empty.

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