by Staff Writers
Miami (AFP) May 6, 2016
SpaceX successfully landed the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket on a floating platform in the Atlantic Ocean early Friday after launching a Japanese communications satellite into orbit.
The California-based aerospace manufacturer wants to perfect the technique of safely returning rocket parts to earth for re-use, instead of jettisoning the costly equipment into the ocean after each launch.
Shouts of "USA, USA, USA" and applause from the ground control crew greeted the feat, only the second time it has been accomplished by SpaceX, which is headed by Internet entrepreneur Elon Musk.
The two-stage rocket lifted off on schedule from Cape Canaveral, Florida at 1:21 am (0521 GMT) with a telecommunications satellite owned by Japanese operator SKY Perfect JSAT.
After separating from the rocket's second stage, the first stage dropped back to Earth, firing its engines as it re-entered the atmosphere.
Moments later it came down with a blinding flash on the deck of the "Of Course I Still Love You" -- the name of the drone ship used to catch it.
Meanwhile, the rocket's second stage continued on its trajectory, and about 32 minutes after liftoff released the satellite into orbit.
SpaceX had not expected the first stage landing attempt to work because it was descending at twice the speed -- two kilometers per second -- than in SpaceX's first successful landing at sea last month.
The company's first successful attempt came after launching an unmanned cargo ship to the International Space Station.
The Japanese satellite will be used to provide telecommunications coverage to Asia, Russia, Oceania and the Pacific Islands.
Launch Pad at Space-Travel.com
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