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Elon Musk-backed rocket company SpaceX successfully launched a satellite on May 1st, and a few minutes later saw the rocket’s valuable first stage land precisely onto its landing area at the centre of Musk’s designated Zone 1 concrete pad at Cape Canaveral.
The launch, of a classified US ‘spy’ satellite, was flawless although the process had been postponed from Sunday because of a problem with an on-board sensor. It was SpaceX’s fifth successful launch this year and took place at 7.15am (EDT). Given that the complete mission was supposed to be a secret, SpaceX gave out very limited information regarding the satellite’s movements or the rocket’s trajectory.
However, the news blackout did not extend to the Falcon 9’s first stage, which having released its cargo then gently revolved and re-started three engines to reduce its forward momentum, and then fired up it’s a single engine which brought the first stage safely back to Earth.
For SpaceX it was the 10th successful landing (out of 15 attempts) and the fourth onto land at Cape Canaveral. The other successful landings have been onto a floating barge.
Next up for the SpaceX team is the launch of an Inmarsat satellite on May 15th.