After clearing the lightning towers, the million pounds of thrust provided by nine Merlin engines slowly lifted the rocket into the dark sky. The accelerating Falcon 9 and Dragon passed a critical stage called “max Q” one minute and 24 seconds after liftoff. This marks the time when the launch vehicle experiences the maximum dynamic pressure on its structure during the flight thanks to a combination of relatively thick atmosphere and the increasing velocity of the rocket. Once past max Q, rockets continue to accelerate but do so in a rapidly thinning atmosphere, thus reducing their aerodynamic load and stress.
The nine engines of the first stage shut down three minutes after launch, at which time there was no glow and only a faint trail of smoke visible in the night sky. Five seconds later the second stage containing the Dragon capsule separated from the first stage. An orange glow reappeared in the sky as the second stage ignited and burned for six minutes and two seconds, placing the Dragon into an orbital path to begin its chase of the ISS.
Just under 10 minutes after launch SpaceX announced Dragon successfully reached orbit. A few minutes later, loud cheers washed over SpaceX’s factory floor as Dragon successfully deployed its solar panels.