SpaceX launches Falcon rocket, pulls off successful booster landing

SpaceX sent a Falcon rocket soaring toward orbit Monday night with 11 small satellites, its first mission since an accident last summer.

See Full Article

Then in an even more amazing feat, it landed the 15-story leftover booster back on Earth safely.

It was the first time an unmanned rocket returned to land vertically at Cape Canaveral, Florida, and represented a tremendous success for SpaceX. The company led by billionaire Elon Musk is striving for reusability to drive launch costs down and open up space to more people.

SpaceX employees broke into cheers and chants, some of them jumping up and down, following the smooth touchdown nine minutes after liftoff. Previous landing attempts ended in fiery blasts, but those aimed for an ocean platform.

"The Falcon has landed," SpaceX TV commentators announced.

The top officer at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Brig. Gen. Wayne Monteith, noted that the returning booster "placed the exclamation mark on 2015."

"This was a first for us at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, and I can't even begin to describe the excitement the team feels right now having been a part of this historic first-stage rocket landing," Monteith said in a statement.

Across the country, SpaceX employees jammed company headquarters in Hawthorne, California, anxiously awaiting success outside Mission Control. They cheered at full throttle when the first stage separated cleanly two minutes into flight and reoriented itself for an unprecedented return to Cape Canaveral. Then the roar became deafening, as TV cameras showed the first-stage booster landing on extended legs at its new, dedicated landing zone. SpaceX commentators called it "incredibly exciting" and were visibly moved by the feat.

"This has been a wildly successful return to flight for SpaceX," said one SpaceX launch commentator. "We made history today."

The touchdown was a secondary objective for SpaceX. The first was hoisting the satellites for OrbComm, a New Jersey-based communication company. All 11 were successfully deployed.

OrbComm chief executive officer Marc Eisenberg seemed just as excited about the booster landing as his satellites reaching orbit.

"Here she comes back," Eisenberg said via Twitter, sharing a photo of the returning booster. Then: "Bullseye."

The booster-landing zone, a former Atlas missile-launching site, is about six miles from the launch pad. SpaceX is leasing the touchdown area -- marked by a giant X -- from the Air Force. The reinforced concrete provides a stable surface, unlike the barges used for the initial attempts, primarily for increased safety.

On its previous flight back in June, SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket failed shortly after liftoff, destroying a supply ship intended for the International Space Station. A snapped strut in the upper stage was to blame. SpaceX spent months correcting the problem and improving the unmanned rocket. It hopes to resume supply runs for NASA in February.

Musk, who also runs the Tesla electric car company, says he can drastically reduce launch costs by reusing rocket parts. Three tries at vertical landings of the first-stage boosters earlier this year failed; in each case, the segment aimed for a modified barge off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida. This time, Musk opted for a true land landing. His ultimate goal, for human missions, is Mars. Besides the space station supply runs, he's working to turn the Dragon capsules into spaceships for crews travelling to and from the orbiting lab.

Blue Origin, another billionaire's rocket company, successfully landed a booster last month in West Texas. That rocket, though, had been used for a suborbital flight. The SpaceX booster was more powerful and flying faster in order to put satellites into orbit.



Advertisements

Latest Tech & Science News

  • Study: Global warming is shrinking river vital to 40M people

    Tech & Science CTV News
    DENVER -- Global warming is already shrinking the Colorado River, the most important waterway in the American Southwest, and it could reduce the flow by more than a third by the end of the century, two scientists say. Source
  • Large iceberg poised to break off Antarctic ice shelf

    Tech & Science CBC News
    An iceberg that's 80 kilometres long is poised to break off Antarctica. Scientists say the rift has slowly been developing across the Antarctic Peninsula's Larsen C ice shelf for years, but it grew by 18 kilometres in December and now has only 20 kilometres left before it snaps off. Source
  • 'Doomsday' seed vault receives 50,000 new samples

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Nearly 10 years after a "doomsday" seed vault opened on an Arctic island, some 50,000 new samples from seed collections around the world have been deposited in the world's largest repository built to safeguard against wars or natural disasters wiping out global food crops. Source
  • Will astronomers ever be able to confirm life exists on other planets?

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Scientists continue to seek signs of life outside our solar system, but how will they know when they find it? Astronomers announced Wednesday they had found seven Earth-sized planets orbiting a star 39 light-years away. Three of the planets lie within the "habitable zone," a theoretical range in which liquid water could exist. Source
  • Celebrity gamer dies during 24-hour live-stream of 'World of Tanks' play on Twitch

    Tech & Science Toronto Sun
    Twenty-two hours into a 24-hour-long marathon video game session, Twitch streamer Brian Vigneault, 35, got up to take a smoke break. He never returned to his computer. His fans, mainly fellow gamers who watched Vigneault play the online skirmisher World of Tanks, wondered if Vigneault had fallen asleep. Source
  • Lawmakers renew push for drilling in Alaska wildlife refuge

    Tech & Science CTV News
    ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Former U.S. Sen. Frank Murkowski in 2001 gave a speech urging colleagues to approve oil drilling in America's largest wildlife refuge. The Alaska Republican held up a blank sheet of paper to illustrate his point. Source
  • Arctic 'doomsday' seed vault receives 50,000 new deposits

    Tech & Science CTV News
    HELSINKI -- Nearly 10 years after a "doomsday" seed vault opened on an Arctic island, some 50,000 new samples from seed collections around the world have been deposited in the world's largest repository built to safeguard against wars or natural disasters wiping out global food crops. Source
  • Renowned Canadian-born architect Frank Gehry to teach online architecture course

    Tech & Science CTV News
    TORONTO -- Class will soon be in session for Frank Gehry, and the celebrated Canadian-born architect will be leading the lessons. The California-based Gehry will be teaching what is being billed as his first-ever online class this spring. Source
  • NASA's Juno spacecraft stuck in long orbits around Jupiter

    Tech & Science CBC News
    NASA's Jupiter-circling spacecraft is stuck making long laps around the gas giant because of sticky valves. It currently takes Juno 53 days to fly around the solar system's biggest planet. That's almost four times longer than the intended 14-day orbit. Source
  • Video feed of giraffe birth briefly removed after labelled 'sexually explicit'

    Tech & Science CTV News
    HARPURSVILLE, N.Y. -- The owner of a New York zoo planning to live-stream a giraffe giving birth says the video feed was briefly removed from YouTube because animal rights activists labeled it sexually explicit. Animal Adventure Park started streaming video Wednesday of 15-year-old April in her enclosed pen at the zoo in Harpursville, more than 200 kilometres of New York City. Source