Almost a month after private space firm Blue Origin successfully landed their rocket at a site in west Texas, Elon Musk’s SpaceX successfully landed their Falcon 9 rocket last night after delivering a satellite payload into low-Earth orbit.
A view from the landing pad showed the rocket—all but a bright, circular glow—lowering itself back down to the earth last night. The emanating dot grows into a horizontal, fiery plume, leaving the tubular Falcon standing in its wake on solid ground.
Cheers break out from onlookers. “The Falcon has landed,” a commentator said.
“(Eleven) satellites deployed to target orbit and Falcon has landed back at Cape Canaveral. Headed to LZ-1. Welcome back, baby,” Musk tweeted.
The 11 satellites were launched for ORBCOMM, a global provider of Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communication and Internet of Things (IoT) solutions. After launching from Space Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, the 11 satellites were deployed, completing a 17-satellite, low-Earth orbit constellation for ORBCOMM.
The satellites were launched at an altitude of around 125 mi.
“The ORBCOMM network uses low-Earth orbit satellites to provide reliable and cost-effective M2M communications to and from the most remote areas of the world,” according to SpaceX. The “satellites are constantly in motion around the Earth, providing inherent network redundancy and minimizing the line-of-sight issues for continuous global coverage.”
The rocket launched at 8:29 p.m., and marked SpaceX’s return-to-flight after a cargo transport mission to the International Space Station failed in June. That rocket disintegrated midair.
According to the New York Times, the Falcon 9’s liquid oxygen was chilled to a minus 340 F, marking a 40 degree shift from previous flights. Additionally, the kerosene fuel was chilled to 20 F, rather than 70 F.
The rocket landed around six mi from the launch pad about 10 minutes after liftoff.
The Falcon 9 launch vehicles is 68.4 m tall, and 500,800 kg.
Previous attempts to land the vehicle on ocean platforms have failed.
Jeff Bezos, who owns Blue Origin, congratulated SpaxeX via Twitter. “Congrats @SpaceX on landing the Falcon’s suborbital boost stage. Welcome to the club!”
The two companies’ achievements advance the notion of reusable rockets one day becoming a reality.