I have never noticed the SpaceX rocket launch videos include a timeline.

This image is from the Falcon Heavy launch with the Tesla car in it.

screenshot of youtube video with timeline at bottom, circled

  • 15
    $\begingroup$ This might actually be a question for ux.stackexchange.com. They might give you some interesting insight into why they present their rocket launches this way. It has something to do with anticipation generating more engagement than the actual payoff. $\endgroup$
    – Philipp
    Feb 12, 2018 at 9:52
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    $\begingroup$ Because it's useful? Why not? $\endgroup$ Feb 12, 2018 at 10:28
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    $\begingroup$ @JanDoggen I understand what you are saying, though it's a dangerous line to get too close to on this subject, I think -- with the growth of private space flight more and more questions & answers will depend on speculation about the motives of decisions made behind closed doors. $\endgroup$
    – Saiboogu
    Feb 12, 2018 at 15:28
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    $\begingroup$ It's for regular folks like me for whom rocket science is rocket science to know what's going on. $\endgroup$ Feb 12, 2018 at 16:15
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    $\begingroup$ Too short for an actual answer: Because people want to see specific things. Example: I really wanted to see the two outer boosters of their latest launch land simultaneously and I wanted to seem them quickly. Far too quickly to watch the entire video up to that point. Thanks to that timeline, I was able to find the part I was looking for fast and was very happy to see the boosters land simultaneously. :) $\endgroup$
    – UTF-8
    Feb 12, 2018 at 22:08

4 Answers 4


SpaceX regularly includes a timeline of noteworthy mission events in their live streams.

One of the founding principals of SpaceX was a desire to inspire humanity to be excited about space travel again. Educating and explaining as you demonstrate is one good way to get people more engaged and interested.

I also get a strong impression that Elon Musk and his employees seem to really get a kick out of what they are doing, and showing it off to the world (with details) is a natural response to that.

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    $\begingroup$ Worth noting that the Arianne 5 launch does a similar thing with a sidebar and they tick off events as they go along (Such as Max-Q etc.) $\endgroup$
    – Edlothiad
    Feb 12, 2018 at 6:50
  • $\begingroup$ @Edlothiad yes, but iirc they miss the "when" part, it is more of a checklist than a timeline. $\endgroup$
    – jkavalik
    Feb 12, 2018 at 10:28
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    $\begingroup$ @jkavalik hence similar thing, they don't really provide a progress bar, but they do inform you. $\endgroup$
    – Edlothiad
    Feb 12, 2018 at 10:33
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    $\begingroup$ "I also get a strong impression that Elon Musk and his employees". What was it about the whooping, cheering and chants of 'USA! USA!' which gave you such an impression? $\endgroup$
    – DrMcCleod
    Feb 12, 2018 at 13:27
  • $\begingroup$ @Edlothiad I thought I'd seen them elsewhere, and originally thought I'd include a few screenshots of other live streams with timelines or checklists, but a few minutes in Google failed to produce the results I expected. Bad search terms, I guess. $\endgroup$
    – Saiboogu
    Feb 12, 2018 at 15:26

Graphic overlays on live video are easier and more common now. So it may simply be, "because we can".

Furthermore, there are business reasons for making launch videos more interesting and widely available:

  1. Private launch companies have the need to make their communication more sales friendly to attract customers.

  2. Interesting communication helps recruit talent.

  3. To educate the general public about private rocketry. Prior to this decade, most people were only aware of NASA or Russian government launches. Since much business comes from government contracts, maintaining good public perception, with things like cool launch/landing videos, is good business.


The timeline is new, but the information it conveys has always been part of launch broadcasts. In older launch broadcasts, the timeline was not shown on-screen, but the items in the timeline were called out by the presenter (Apollo 11 example). The broadcast includes a few information overlays (e.g. countdown and launch time).
These days, it's much easier (=cheaper) to produce such graphics than it was in the 1960s.

On Ariane 5 launches, the webcast includes a graphic of the go/no go status: Ariane 5 is GO for launch

and speed/altitude graphs: second stage burn

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    $\begingroup$ Probably a big factor when comparing to historical launches is the increase in broadcast resolutions - at 'standard definition' you're very limited in how much text / detail you can fit on a screen and still be readable $\endgroup$ Feb 12, 2018 at 10:34
  • $\begingroup$ An annotated timeline is very doable at 480p, even at crappy 1960s NTSC. Just need slightly bigger font than SpaceX uses. $\endgroup$
    – Hobbes
    Feb 12, 2018 at 20:39

The Still Testing flight of Electron by Rocket Lab in January 2018 also included such a graphic in its live online broadcast.

The graphic included

  • terminal countdown (start)

  • lift-off

  • staging

  • fairing separation

  • payload deployment

The removal of a commentator announcement at crucial times means audio feed can be directly from the control room (as done in the broadcast) allowing viewers to experience "behind the scenes" action and remain aware of progress during the flight.

For Rocket Lab, this is more important given their profile, but growth of public awareness is significant to any business. The more a person knows, the more they are likely to want to know, and to become involved in finding out.


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