SpaceX lands a Falcon 9 rocket

On December 21 2015, SpaceX made history by successfully landing its Falcon 9 rocket, 10 minutes after lift-off from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

In early January, the US-based company released new pictures of the returned rocket looking somewhat scorched after its trip into space. But CEO Elon Musk said the Falcon 9 was undamaged by its landing and ready to fire again.

110116 spacex 1

The shiny new Falcon 9 rocket, still in the hangar, before its late December launch.

110116 spacex 2

The Falcon 9 rocket, complete with payload, on the launch pad in Florida. The primary purpose of the launch was to carry 11 Orbcomm communications satellites into low Earth orbit. Landing the main rocket safely back on Earth was the secondary mission.


110116 spacex 3

SpaceX converted an adjacent Cape Canaveral launch pad, previously used by NASA for Atlas rocket launches, into a landing zone. The launch was SpaceX’s first attempt to land its rocket on solid ground after sending it into space. The company had previously tried, and failed, to land the rocket on a floating sea platform.


110116 spacex 4

At 8.29pm local time, the Falcon 9 lifted off, carrying its satellites into space. 


110116 spacex 5

After successfully releasing its payload into orbit, the Falcon 9 returned to Earth.


110116 spacex 7

In this single 10 minute time-lapse photograph, SpaceX captured the rocket’s lift-off and landing.


110116 spacex 8

The returned rocket on the landing zone.


110116 spacex 9

On December 24, the slightly scorched rocket was returned to the hangar, where SpaceX engineers checked it over and found no damage.


110116 spacex 10

The Falcon 9’s paintwork might need a touch-up.


110116 spacex 11

SpaceX has become quite attached to its history-making rocket, and says this particular Falcon 9 will not be launched again. In order to prove that the rocket still works, the company does plan to fire it up again – although it will be firmly tethered to the ground first.

Please login to favourite this article.