SpaceX’s signature Falcon 9 boosted two astronauts into orbit on Saturday, May 30, setting a new milestone for the Elon Musk company. The achievement, the first of its kind for a private company, was broadcast to millions of people over the internet. But a brief pause in SpaceX and NASA’s streaming, just seconds before the Falcon 9’s safe landing in the Atlantic, has led many to question whether the mission ever happened at all.
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 took off from Cape Canaveral on Saturday at 8.22pm BST (3.22pm EDT), carrying NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley aboard the Crew Dragon capsule.
Once the Falcon accelerated the Dragon to an optimal height, the rocket’s first stage separated and flew back down to Earth, aiming for a SpaceX droneship in the Atlantic Ocean.
The Falcon 9 landed on the Of Course I Still Love You vessel at 8.32pm BST (3.33pm EDT).
But the moment of the rocket’s landing was briefly lost as SpaceX’s official live stream cut out to a prerecorded message instead.
The stream cut to a message reading: “Of Course I Still Love you loss of signal.
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“The ship to shore satellite video connection has been lost.
“Video should automatically resume when the connection is restored.”
The stream then cut to a view inside of the Crew Dragon capsule, before a view of the landed Falcon 9 was restored.
The 10 seconds without the Falcon in sight has sparked a frenzy of conspiracy claims on social media.
One Twitter user who shared the clip online said: “The SpaceX mission is a hoax.”
The live video feed has to be transmitted via satellite
Another person said: “FAKED AGAIN. SpaceX Falcon 9 landing on a ship was such an obvious fake.
“They were supposedly coming down, the right before the touch down. THE VIDEO FEED CUT OFF, LOL.
“Then a minute later, it comes back on, with the rocket already down. Staged.”
A third person said: “@elonmusk you gotta show the landing of the Falcon 9 today.
“The way the camera cut out it feels like Moon landing hoax. Did it actually land properly?”
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Someone else said: “Those are some impressive special effects of shuttle launches and space, for a round Earther.
“And the shuttle can get past the atmosphere but they’re afraid of some clouds and maybe some lightning?
“What are they hiding? #flatearth #SpaceForce #NASA”
However, SpaceX fans have explained the live stream anomaly was caused by vibration from the Falcon’s nine Merlin engines.
According to the YouTube channel Primal Space, SpaceX’s feeds often cut out before the exciting moment.
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In a video titled Why does the SpaceX droneship camera cut out?, a voiceover says: “With the droneship being in such a remote location, the live video feed has to be transmitted via satellite.
“A large antenna on the droneship sends a directional signal towards the satellite, which will then transmit that footage back down to the broadcast team.”
The signal from the droneship is directional so that it is strong enough to reach the satellite.
But as the Falcon 9 approaches the vessel, the thrust generated by the rocket’s engines begins to uncontrollably shake the droneship.
The vibrations cause the ship’s antenna to briefly lose contact with the transmission satellite.
As the rocket powers down in a vertical position, the ship stabilises and reconnects with the satellite.
But the good news is there are many videos of the Falcon 9 landing in the sea and on the land that have been shot from far away.
You can see one such example in the embedded video above.
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