US space firm SpaceX made history on Friday as it launched an already-used Falcon 9 rocket back into space for the first time and then landed its first stage on a droneship in the Atlantic Ocean.
The two-stage rocket, carrying a communications satellite into orbit for Luxembourg-based satellite operator SES, blasted off at 6.37 pm EDT (4.07 a.m. Indian time) from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
About 10 minutes later, the first stage achieved a successful landing on the ‘Of Course I Still Love You’ droneship that was stationed in the Atlantic Ocean, Xinhua news agency reported.
“Falcon 9 first stage has landed on Of Course I Still Love You — the world’s first reflight of an orbital class rocket,” the company tweeted.
Previously, the first stage of the rocket for the SES-10 mission flew in a cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station cargo for the the US space agency NASA in April 2016.
Once in position, the satellite will provide telecommunications services to Latin America.
SpaceX achieved a space industry first in December 2015 when its Falcon 9 rocket booster successfully landed upright on solid ground at Cape Canaveral, Florida, after launching 11 small satellites into orbit.
The feat has since been repeated both on land and at sea, but SpaceX has yet to re-fly one of its used rockets.
SpaceX’s rival firm, Blue Origin, owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, successfully completed similar rocket recovery tests, but all of its missions were suborbital, not orbital, ones.
SES has been known to be “a strong supporter” of SpaceX’s approach to reusability over the years. Back in 2013, it was the first company to launch a commercial satellite on a Falcon 9 rocket.
The satellite operator hailed the launch as “one step closer to rapid rocket reusability” and “one step closer to faster, easier access to space.”