A Falcon 9 rocket fired into a late-night sky Friday night over Cape Canaveral with a Dragon supply ship bound for the International Space Station. Eight minutes later, the booster returned to Florida’s Space Coast for SpaceX’s 50th landing of a Falcon first stage.
The 213-foot-tall (65-meter) rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral’s Complex 40 launch pad at 11:50 p.m. EST Friday (0450 GMT Saturday), and the Falcon 9 headed northeast on a trajectory to begin a pursuit of the space station on an unpiloted Dragon resupply mission.
Two-and-a-half minutes after liftoff, the Falcon 9’s first stage shut down and detached. Moments later, three engines fired to begin boosting the rocket back toward Cape Canaveral. Another three-engine burn later helped the rocket target Landing Zone 1 at the Cape, then a single-engine burn slowed the booster for touchdown a little more than eight minutes after launch.
Four landing legs extended as the rocket settled on Landing Zone 1, marking the 50th time SpaceX has recovered a Falcon first stage intact after a launch.
SpaceX has notched 31 successful recoveries on drone ships floating downrange from launch sites in California and Florida. Falcon boosters have landed 17 times at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, and twice at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
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