SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket leans in for a landing

Image: SpaceX Falcon landing
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 booster stands on a drone ship after landing. (Credit: SpaceX)

For the third time in a row, a SpaceX Falcon 9 booster sent a payload into space and then came back for a landing on an oceangoing platform. But this time, the booster was a little shaken up.

Today’s launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida put the Thaicom 8 telecommunications satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit.

Minutes after liftoff at 5:40 p.m. ET (2:40 p.m. PT), the Falcon’s first stage fell away from the second stage. While the second stage continued into orbit with the satellite, the first stage went through a series of maneuvers aimed at braking its supersonic descent and putting itself down on an autonomous drone ship hundreds of miles out in the Atlantic Ocean.

Today’s success rounded out what could be called a hat trick in rocket reusability. SpaceX pulled off its first at-sea touchdown on April 8, and did it again on the night of May 5.

This one was a nail-biter: The launch to a high orbit meant the booster had to re-enter the atmosphere at an incredibly high speed.

In a series of tweets, SpaceX founder Elon Musk said the booster was roughed up when it landed on the drone ship, known as “Of Course I Still Love You.”

Get the full story on GeekWire.

By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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