The ball's in your court, Bezos: Falcon 9 lands after launching satellites

SpaceX celebrates successful return mission

Elon Musk's SpaceX has successfully landed a rocket on Earth, after first using it to launch satellites.

The Falcon 9 craft left the US on Monday night, local time, packed with 11 satellites. The rocket launched at 20:28 from Cape Canaveral in Florida. At 20:32 the rocket's first stage engines shut off. Two minutes later, the first stage's engines re-ignited to perform the flyback maneuver. At 20:36 the first stage engines again lit up in a second planned burn that saw the craft return to earth at 12:40.

The return of a rocket's first stage to Earth is a very big deal because single-use launch vehicles are more expensive than re-usable craft. While some rockets are recovered today, returning a working booster to the launchpad has many and very obvious benefits.

So obvious that supremo Jeff Bezos' rocket company, Blue Origin, can see them too and successfully landed its New Shepherd craft in November.

SpaceX and its leader Elon Musk are, naturally, chuffed about the success of the mission because not only did the Falcon 9's first stage make it back to earth, the other stages appear to have delivered all 11 satellites in good shape.

Billionaire rivalries aside, re-usable rockets are good news for everyone, as by making space travel cheaper they create all sorts of possibilities for those who would boldly go beyond Earth's gravity well. And now we have two companies capable of pulling off this awesome trick! ®

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