Coming Up: Falcon 9 Max Q, Main Engine Cutoff, and Stage Separation

Photo credit: NASA Television

A series of rapid events occurs after launch. After Max Q – the moment of peak mechanical stress on the rocket – the nine Merlin engines of the Falcon 9’s first stage will finish their burn and cut off during a phase called MECO or Main Engine Cutoff. 

Quickly after MECO, the stage separation sequence occurs. The second stage carrying NASA’s PACE (Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem) spacecraft will continue on its journey to sun-synchronous orbit.  

Coming up next, the Falcon 9’s second stage engine ignites, and the protective payload fairings will be jettisoned to reveal NASA’s PACE (Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem) spacecraft to the vacuum of space for the first time.   

Meanwhile, the first stage of the rocket begins its recovery journey for a vertical landing at SpaceX Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Landing should occur about eight and a half minutes after liftoff. 

Stay right here on the blog for more live mission coverage.