SpaceX defies own gloomy predictions as rocket lands safely after satellite launch

An unmanned SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Florida on Friday to put a communications satellite into orbit, then made a swift return landing on an ocean platform. It was the second successful landing at sea for entrepreneur Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, which intends to offer cut-rate launch services by re-using its rockets. “Woohoo!!” Mr Musk wrote on Twitter after the landing. “May need to increase size of rocket storage hangar.”

Given this mission’s GTO destination, the first stage will be subject to extreme velocities and re-entry heating, making a successful landing unlikely

SpaceX had played down the chances of a successful mission

Friday’s launch was the fourth of more than a dozen flights planned this year by SpaceX, which has a backlog of more than $10 billion worth of launch orders from customers including Nasa. The 23-storey high rocket lifted off from a seaside launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. About 150 seconds after launch the rocket’s first stage shut down, separated, flipped around and headed towards a drone ship stationed more than 400 miles (650 km) off Florida’s east coast in the Atlantic Ocean. The rocket’s second stage continued flying to deliver a 10,300lb (4,700-kg) Japanese-funded satellite into orbit.