SpaceX rocket lifts off, comes back with a boom

Image: SpaceX launch
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket rises from its Florida launch pad. (Credit: NASA)

SpaceX launched a Dragon cargo capsule to the International Space Station tonight with a couple of precedent-setting payloads on opposite ends of the size spectrum: a 5-foot-wide docking adapter, which was built by Boeing to accommodate future commercial space taxis; and the first DNA sequencer destined for use in space, which is about the size of a candy bar.

The Falcon 9 rocket rose into the night at 12:45 a.m. ET Monday (9:45 p.m. PT Sunday) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Minutes later, the Falcon 9’s second stage and the uncrewed Dragon separated from the first stage and continued on to orbit. Meanwhile, the first stage flew itself back to Florida’s Space Coast and touched down at SpaceX’s Landing Zone 1, near the launch pad.

“LZ-1, Falcon 9 has landed,” SpaceX’s mission control announced. The news was greeted with whoops and hollers from hundreds of SpaceX employees who gathered at the company’s headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif.

Floridians heard a thunderous sonic boom as the booster descended.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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