What were those white flashes in the sky after SpaceX’s Crew-2 launch? We explain

Flashes of light create plumes as rocket booster prepares to land on ocean drone ship

Crew-2 astronauts to arrive at ISS
Crew-2 astronauts to arrive at ISS

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – After a Falcon 9 rocket carrying four astronauts successfully lifted off from Kennedy Space Center and dazzled Florida’s sky, the show continued as the rocket’s booster returned for landing.

The SpaceX rocket launched from Cape Canaveral at 5:49 a.m. carrying astronauts four astronauts -- two American, one Japanese and one European — who make up the Crew-2 mission, inside SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Endeavour.

NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet are now en route to the International Space Station for an early Saturday morning arrival.

[RE-WATCH: Flawless SpaceX launch with 4 astronauts from Kennedy Space Center]

Liftoff! NASA, SpaceX launch astronauts into space
Liftoff! NASA, SpaceX launch astronauts into space

The weather held up, creating picture-perfect skies for spectators who tuned in to watch the crew leave Earth after Friday morning’s launch.

A stunning image shows the view of the launch from the University of Central Florida’s football field.

The views could be seen from as far as South Carolina, as seen in the photo below, but the visuals didn’t stop there.

SpaceX's Crew-2 launch seen in Charleston, South Carolina, on Friday, April 23, 2021. (WKMG)

About 1 minute after liftoff and after the glowing orange from the rocket’s thrusters had worn off, flashes of white light pulsed in the sky, creating an image that looked almost like a jellyfish.

According to News 6 space expert Emilee Speck, first and second stage separation and the booster’s return created those plumes in the sky.

Normally, the first stage booster is not visible as it comes back for landing on the drone ship at sea, according to Speck, but the pre-sunrise hour created the perfect time to see the booster return as it created a plume in the sky.

[MORE: Crew-2 timeline: From astronaut wakeup call to space station docking | An American, Japanese and French crew is headed to space: Meet the Crew-2 astronauts]

The booster returned about 10 minutes after liftoff to land on SpaceX’s “Of Course I Still Love You” drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean, marking the second astronaut launch for this specific booster and yet another successful launch and landing for Elon Musk’s company.

It turns out the astronauts on board Dragon Endeavour had a spectacular view during the launch, too. A few hours after liftoff the Crew-2 astronauts offered a live look inside the capsule in space.

“We had an incredible launch ... it was right as the sun was rising, we chased the sun pretty quickly and caught up just a few minutes after we took off that was pretty special to see the sunlight coming in,” Kimbrough said.

Pesquet, the astronaut with ESA, said the crew could even see the rocket’s second stage after separation flying in formation under the capsule.

A short time after launch Friday morning, as the sun came up over the region, some Central Floridians captured white swirls in the sky.

The Dragon spacecraft now continues on to the space station, where it’s expected to dock early Saturday.

Get live updates on Dragon’s journey and details about the Crew-2 mission here.

Did you snap any impressive photos of the launch or the white flashes in the sky? We want to see them. Share them with us by emailing web@wkmg.com.

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A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Crew Dragon space capsule lifts off from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Friday, April 23, 2021. (AP Photo/John Raoux)


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About the Author:

Brianna joined the News 6 and ClickOrlando.com team in 2016. You can catch Brianna breaking down exclusive ClickOrlando.com stories every weekday morning on News 6 at Nine and watch her on “ClickO on the Go” by following News 6 on Snapchat and Instagram.