SpaceX rocket sticks its landing

Falcon 9 launch

WHAT GOES UP  The reusable first stage of a Falcon 9 rocket successfully lands after a December 21 test flight, seen in this picture from a helicopter.


A rocket flying toward the ground is usually a bad sign, but for aerospace company SpaceX, it was a huge success. With engines blazing, the first section of a Falcon 9 rocket returned safely to Earth December 21 after a launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, landing vertically on a platform just down the road.

The landing is a milestone for the company; earlier attempts to land on a barge at sea didn’t go as well. For the latest launch, the rocket stage flew to about 75 kilometers before turning around, leaving the rest of the rocket to deliver a package of satellites into low Earth orbit.

Historically, spent rocket stages have been jettisoned and lost at sea. Reusable stages may greatly reduce costs for future flights. 

Christopher Crockett is an Associate News Editor. He was formerly the astronomy writer from 2014 to 2017, and he has a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Los Angeles.

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