A SpaceX Falcon rocket blasted off on Sunday from a Florida launch pad once used to send NASA astronauts to the moon.
Tha launch was a step forward for billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk’s goal of ferrying astronauts to the International Space Station, Reuters reports.
The 229-foot tall (70-meter) Falcon 9 soared off a seaside launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center at 9:39 a.m. EST (1439 GMT) carrying a Dragon cargo ship that holds supplies and science experiments for the station.
Nine minutes after blastoff, the main section of the rocket flew back to a landing pad at nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, the eighth successful touchdown for Space Exploration Technologies Corp.
“Baby came back,” Musk wrote on Twitter, celebrating the landing. SpaceX had decided to delay the mission on Saturday, 13 seconds before launch due to concerns about the steering system in the rocket’s upper stage.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration closely monitored Sunday’s launch to learn more about the company’s operations before it clears SpaceX to fly US astronauts.
The liftoff marked a successful debut for SpaceX at Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39A, originally built for the 1960s-era Apollo moon program and later repurposed for the space shuttles. SpaceX plans to use the pad for commercial missions, as well as future manned flights.
The pad was last used for the final space shuttle launch in 2011. In 2014, SpaceX signed a 20-year lease and has spent millions on remodeling.
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