SpaceX returns to flight with triumphant first stage landing

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off over Cocoa Beach, Fla., at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Monday, Dec. 21, 2015. It was the Falcon 9's first launch in six months following a launch failure last June, and the first-ever upright landing of a rocket, anywhere. The rocket was launched by United States space company SpaceX. The two-stage Falcon 9 separated, and then the rocket's first stage performed a series three "boostback burns", coming down for a pinpoint touchdown at Cape Canaveral. With the announcement, workers at the company's headquarters started cheering and chanting "USA!"

"Welcome back, baby!" An over-the-moon Elon Musk has his bragging rights back after SpaceX successfully landed a rocket that sent satellites on a trip round the Earth. This made SpaceX the first commercial company to visit International Space Station. "We achieved recovery of the rocket in a mission that actually deployed 11 satellites", he said.

11 satellites deployed to target orbit and Falcon has landed back at Cape Canaveral. That rocket, though, had been used for a suborbital flight. US space agency NASA retweeted a posting from SpaceX, writing: "Congratulations @SpaceX on your successful vertical landing of the first stage back on Earth!"

Musk has already tried twice to land the Falcon 9 on an unmanned ocean barge the size of a football field. It's hard to tell the scale of the Falcon 9 first stage after only seeing it in video or standing alone on the landing pad.

Musk has said the ability to return its rockets to Earth so they can be refurbished and reflown would slash his company's operational costs in the burgeoning and highly competitive private space launch industry.

Elon's competitor Jeff Bezos had similar success last month when he launched the New Shephard into sub-orbital space (lower in the sky than where Falcon 9 launched) and successfully landed it in one piece.

Previous attempts, all unsuccessful, were attempted on floating landing pads. This time, Musk opted for a true land landing.

The launch of a rocket is the first by SpaceX since one exploded in June.

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