Historic Launch And Dramatic Landing for SpaceX

Elon Musk and his private spaceflight company SpaceX have taken yet another step toward Mars on Sunday by launching their first mission from NASA’s historic Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center. The site previously saw the liftoff of Apollo 11 in 1969, which carried humanity’s first moon walkers. Sunday morning, it was used by SpaceX to launch its Dragon cargo spacecraft toward the International Space Station.

The rocket blasted off from Launch Pad 39A at precisely 9:39 a.m. Rain had been pouring at the launch site less than an hour earlier, but the showers moved out as predicted.

The engines’ brilliant orange flames stood out in bright contrast to the gray, hazy horizon, but only for a few seconds.  The rising rocket disappeared into the low clouds before the crackling sound of the launch could even reach observers.

The SpaceX rocket descended through the clouds before landing right in the middle of the pad, a perfect landing after a rocky start. The rocket was supposed to launch Saturday but took off 9:38am Sunday instead because of a technical error. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk captioned the video on Instagram: 'Baby came back'.

SpaceX A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket disappears into clouds

The rocket has landed five other times successfully on sea platforms but this is the first time on land. This is the first mission to take off from the pad, and the first in Florida since last September, when one of the company's rockets exploded on another Cape Canaveral pad, severely damaging it. It is also the third SpaceX rocket to land on solid ground.

Now that SpaceX has finally launched from 39A, it’s possible the company could dramatically up its frequency of Falcon 9 missions this year. SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said earlier this month that the company is aiming to launch every two to three weeks in 2017. And SpaceX’s stockpile of landed rockets may finally see flight again. Originally, the first reusable rocket was supposed to fly again last fall, but that plan was changed after the September 1st explosion. Now, the first landed rocket could launch again in March, according to Shotwell.