SpaceX Falcon rocket nails safe landing in pivotal space feat

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SpaceX Successfully Lands Rocket After Launch

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Florida on Monday with a payload of communications satellites before the reusable main-stage booster turned around, soared back to Cape Canaveral and landed safely near its launch pad in a dramatic spaceflight first.

The successful mission, capped by delivery of all 11 satellites to orbit for launch customer ORBCOMM Inc (ORBC.O), unfolded in just over 30 minutes and marked a pivotal reversal of fortunes for privately owned Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, founded by high-tech entrepreneur Elon Musk.

It was the first flight for his California-based company since a rocket failure in June that destroyed a cargo ship being carried on a resupply mission bound for the International Space Station.

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SpaceX Falcon rocket nails safe landing in pivotal space feat
FLORIDA, USA - DECEMBER 21: (SpaceX HANDOUT - EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES ) A handout picture made available by SpaceX on 22 December 2015 shows a nine-minute exposure picture of the launch, re-entry, and landing burns of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, on 21 December 2015. Private space flight company SpaceX successfully returned a rocket to Earth following a satellite launch on 21 December after two earlier attempts failed. (Photo by SpaceX Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
FLORIDA, USA - DECEMBER 21: (SpaceX HANDOUT - EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES ) A handout picture made available by SpaceX on 22 December 2015 shows SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket successfully landing upright at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, on 21 December 2015. Private space flight company SpaceX successfully returned a rocket to Earth following a satellite launch on 21 December after two earlier attempts failed. (Photo by SpaceX Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
FLORIDA, USA - DECEMBER 21: (SpaceX HANDOUT - EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES ) A handout picture made available by SpaceX on 22 December 2015 shows SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket successfully landing upright at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, on 21 December 2015. Private space flight company SpaceX successfully returned a rocket to Earth following a satellite launch on 21 December after two earlier attempts failed. (Photo by SpaceX Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
FLORIDA, USA - DECEMBER 21: (SpaceX HANDOUT - EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES ) A handout picture made available by SpaceX on 22 December 2015 shows a nine-minute exposure picture of the launch, re-entry, and landing burns of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, on 21 December 2015. Private space flight company SpaceX successfully returned a rocket to Earth following a satellite launch on 21 December after two earlier attempts failed. (Photo by SpaceX Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
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The upgraded, 23-story-tall Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 8:29 p.m. EST/0129 GMT, with the nine-engine suborbital main stage returning 10 minutes later to a landing site about 6 miles south of its launch pad. The upper-stage booster continued its ascent to Earth orbit with its payload.

Musk has said the ability to return his rockets to Earth so they can be refurbished and reflown would slash his company's operational costs in the burgeoning and highly competitive private space launch industry.

SpaceX employees erupted in jubilation as they watched live video footage of the 156-foot-tall white first-stage booster slowly descending upright through a damp, darkened night sky amid a glowing orange ball of light to make a picture-perfect landing.

"Welcome back, baby!" Musk wrote in a celebratory Twitter message he posted.

SEE ALSO: Space X rocket destroyed on way to space station, cargo lost

Rival company Blue Origin, a space startup founded by Amazon.com (AMZN.O) Chief Executive Jeff Bezos, nailed a similar return rocket landing test last month. In a seemingly back-handed compliment to SpaceX, Bezos tweeted a message of congratulations to Musk's company, saying: "Welcome to the club!"

But the SpaceX feat, which the company had characterized before launch as a "secondary test objective," was achieved during an actual commercial mission.

Minutes after blast-off, the Falcon 9's first-stage rocket separated from its upper-stage booster, which continued on into orbit to release ORBCOMM's satellites about 500 miles (800 km) above the Earth.

Monday's deployment completed a $200 million 17-satellite network that will provide machine-to-machine messaging services on the ground - such as between retailers and shipping containers.

After separation from its upper stage, the Falcon rocket's main stage turned around and fired a series of engine burns as the vehicle flew back to Earth, unfurled its landing legs and settled gently onto a newly revamped landing pad occupying a decommissioned missile site.

SpaceX, which has more than 60 launch missions pending collectively worth about $8 billion, previously experimented unsuccessfully with attempts to land its rockets on a platform in the ocean.

The Hawthorne, California-based company was founded in 2002 by Musk, who also serves as chief executive of Tesla Motors Inc (TSLA.O), the electric car maker.

SEE ALSO: Telsa recalling all Model S sedans for seat belt issue

Before Monday, SpaceX had been grounded since June 28, when a Falcon 9 rocket exploded shortly after launch during a space station cargo run for NASA.

Investigators traced the problem to a faulty support beam that held a bottle of helium inside the rocket's upper-stage liquid oxygen tank. When the strut broke, helium flooded into the tank, causing it to over-pressurize and then explode.

SpaceX switched to a new supplier for the steel struts and upgraded its testing program, Musk later told reporters. The Falcon rocket launched on Monday also included a more powerful first-stage engine and a beefed-up landing system.

To see more on Musk, click through the gallery below:

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SpaceX Falcon rocket nails safe landing in pivotal space feat
Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors Inc., announces its new Tesla "D", a new all-wheel-drive version of the Tesla Model S car in Hawthorne, Calif., Thursday, Oct. 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
Guests test-drive the new Tesla Model S P85D after Tesla Motors Inc., announced its new all-wheel-drive version of the Tesla Model S car in Hawthorne, Calif., Thursday, Oct. 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
A Tesla electric car is plugged in while parked at a parking spot reserved for charging electric vehicles Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2015, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Guests test-drive the new Tesla Model S P85D after Tesla Motors Inc., announced its new all-wheel-drive version of the Tesla Model S car in Hawthorne, Calif., Thursday, Oct. 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
A Tesla electric car is plugged in while parked at a parking spot reserved for charging electric vehicles Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2015, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Tesla product specialist Kat Brand demonstrates how to plug in the electric car at a dealership for the vehicle, Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015, in Seattle. Washington state's Senate is still figuring out policy on the electric cars gaining popularity, Tesla among them. Bills discussed in hearings this week would extend the sales/use tax exemption for clean-fuel vehicles and require King/Pierce/Thurston counties to give incentives to builders for adding electric-charging stations to projects. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Tesla product specialist Kat Brand explains the control panel on the electric car at a dealership for the vehicle, Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015, in Seattle. Washington state's Senate is still figuring out policy on the electric cars gaining popularity, Tesla among them. Bills discussed in hearings this week would extend the sales/use tax exemption for clean-fuel vehicles and require King/Pierce/Thurston counties to give incentives to builders for adding electric-charging stations to projects. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
In this Saturday, Jan. 3, 2015 photo, people check out the Tesla model S at the Tesla showroom at the the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, Calif. The Federal Reserve releases its December report on consumer borrowing on Friday, Feb. 6, 2015. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)
Elon Musk, Tesla Chairman, Product Architect and CEO, speaks at the Automotive News World Congress in Detroit, Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Tesla Motors Inc., unveils its new car Tesla "D" in Hawthorne, Calif., Thursday, Oct. 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors Inc., announces its new car Tesla "D" in Hawthorne, Calif., Thursday, Oct. 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
HAWTHORNE CA - OCTOBER 09: Tesla owners take a ride in the new Tesla 'D' model electric sedan after Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, unveiled the dual engine chassis of the new Tesla 'D' model, a faster and all-wheel-drive version of the Model S electric sedan, at the Hawthorne Airport October 09, 2014 in Hawthorne, California. The D will be able to accelerate to 60 miles per hour in just over 3 seconds. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
HAWTHORNE CA - OCTOBER 09: Tesla owners take a ride in the new Tesla 'D' model electric sedan after Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, unveiled the dual engine chassis of the new Tesla 'D' model, a faster and all-wheel-drive version of the Model S electric sedan, at the Hawthorne Airport October 09, 2014 in Hawthorne, California. The D will be able to accelerate to 60 miles per hour in just over 3 seconds. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
HAWTHORNE CA - OCTOBER 09: Tesla owners take a ride in the new Tesla 'D' model electric sedan after Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, unveiled the dual engine chassis of the new Tesla 'D' model, a faster and all-wheel-drive version of the Model S electric sedan, at the Hawthorne Airport October 09, 2014 in Hawthorne, California. The D will be able to accelerate to 60 miles per hour in just over 3 seconds. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
HAWTHORNE CA - OCTOBER 09: Tesla owners take a ride in the new Tesla 'D' model electric sedan after Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, unveiled the dual engine chassis of the new Tesla 'D' model, a faster and all-wheel-drive version of the Model S electric sedan, at the Hawthorne Airport October 09, 2014 in Hawthorne, California. The D will be able to accelerate to 60 miles per hour in just over 3 seconds. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
HAWTHORNE CA - OCTOBER 09: The new Tesla 'D' model electric sedan number is seen after Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, unveiled the dual engine chassis of the new Tesla 'D' model, a faster and all-wheel-drive version of the Model S electric sedan, at the Hawthorne Airport October 09, 2014 in Hawthorne, California. The D will be able to accelerate to 60 miles per hour in just over 3 seconds. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
HAWTHORNE CA - OCTOBER 09: The new dashboard of Tesla 'D' model electric sedan is seen after Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, unveiled the dual engine chassis of the new Tesla 'D' model, a faster and all-wheel-drive version of the Model S electric sedan, at the Hawthorne Airport October 09, 2014 in Hawthorne, California. The D will be able to accelerate to 60 miles per hour in just over 3 seconds. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
HAWTHORNE CA - OCTOBER 09: Tesla owners look at the new interior of a Tesla 'D' model electric sedan after Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, unveiled the dual engine chassis, a faster and all-wheel-drive version of the Model S electric sedan, at the Hawthorne Airport October 09, 2014 in Hawthorne, California. The D will be able to accelerate to 60 miles per hour in just over 3 seconds. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
HAWTHORNE CA - OCTOBER 09: The new dashboard of Tesla 'D' model electric sedan is seen on a giant screen during Elon Musk's , CEO of Tesla, unveiling of the dual engine chassis of the new Tesla 'D' model, a faster and all-wheel-drive version of the Model S electric sedan, at the Hawthorne Airport October 09, 2014 in Hawthorne, California. The D will be able to accelerate to 60 miles per hour in just over 3 seconds. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
HAWTHORNE CA - OCTOBER 09: Tesla owners take a ride in the new Tesla 'D' model after Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, unveiled the dual engine chassis, a faster and all-wheel-drive version of the Model S electric sedan, at the Hawthorne Airport October 09, 2014 in Hawthorne, California. The D will be able to accelerate to 60 miles per hour in just over 3 seconds. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
HAWTHORNE CA - OCTOBER 09: Tesla owners look at the new interior of a Tesla 'D' model electric sedan after Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, unveiled the dual engine chassis, a faster and all-wheel-drive version of the Model S electric sedan, at the Hawthorne Airport October 09, 2014 in Hawthorne, California. The D will be able to accelerate to 60 miles per hour in just over 3 seconds. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
HAWTHORNE CA - OCTOBER 09: Tesla owners take a ride in the new Tesla 'D' model after Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, unveiled the dual engine chassis, a faster and all-wheel-drive version of the Model S electric sedan, at the Hawthorne Airport October 09, 2014 in Hawthorne, California. The D will be able to accelerate to 60 miles per hour in just over 3 seconds. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
HAWTHORNE CA - OCTOBER 09: Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, unveils the dual engine chassis of the new Tesla 'D' model at the Hawthorne Airport October 09, 2014 in Hawthorne, California. The 'D' is the faster and all-wheel-drive version of the Model S electric sedan, capable of accelerating to 60 miles per hour in just over 3 seconds. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
HAWTHORNE CA - OCTOBER 09: Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, unveils the dual engine chassis of the new Tesla 'D' model at the Hawthorne Airport October 09, 2014 in Hawthorne, California. The 'D' is the faster and all-wheel-drive version of the Model S electric sedan, capable of accelerating to 60 miles per hour in just over 3 seconds. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
HAWTHORNE CA - OCTOBER 09: Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, unveils the dual engine chassis of the new Tesla 'D' model at the Hawthorne Airport October 09, 2014 in Hawthorne, California. The 'D' is the faster and all-wheel-drive version of the Model S electric sedan, capable of accelerating to 60 miles per hour in just over 3 seconds. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
HAWTHORNE CA - OCTOBER 09: Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, unveils the dual engine chassis of the new Tesla 'D' model at the Hawthorne Airport October 09, 2014 in Hawthorne, California. The 'D' is the faster and all-wheel-drive version of the Model S electric sedan, capable of accelerating to 60 miles per hour in just over 3 seconds. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
HAWTHORNE CA - OCTOBER 09: Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, unveils the dual engine chassis of the new Tesla 'D' model at the Hawthorne Airport October 09, 2014 in Hawthorne, California. The 'D' is the faster and all-wheel-drive version of the Model S electric sedan, capable of accelerating to 60 miles per hour in just over 3 seconds. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
HAWTHORNE CA - OCTOBER 09: Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, unveils the dual engine chassis of the new Tesla 'D' model at the Hawthorne Airport October 09, 2014 in Hawthorne, California. The 'D' is the faster and all-wheel-drive version of the Model S electric sedan, capable of accelerating to 60 miles per hour in just over 3 seconds. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
HAWTHORNE CA - OCTOBER 09: Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, unveils the dual engine chassis of the new Tesla 'D' model at the Hawthorne Airport October 09, 2014 in Hawthorne, California. The 'D' is the faster and all-wheel-drive version of the Model S electric sedan, capable of accelerating to 60 miles per hour in just over 3 seconds. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
HAWTHORNE CA - OCTOBER 09: Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, unveils the dual engine chassis of the new Tesla 'D' model at the Hawthorne Airport October 09, 2014 in Hawthorne, California. The 'D' is the faster and all-wheel-drive version of the Model S electric sedan, capable of accelerating to 60 miles per hour in just over 3 seconds. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
HAWTHORNE CA - OCTOBER 09: Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, unveils the dual engine chassis of the new Tesla 'D' model at the Hawthorne Airport October 09, 2014 in Hawthorne, California. The 'D' is the faster and all-wheel-drive version of the Model S electric sedan, capable of accelerating to 60 miles per hour in just over 3 seconds. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
HAWTHORNE CA - OCTOBER 09: Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, unveils the dual engine chassis of the new Tesla 'D' model at the Hawthorne Airport October 09, 2014 in Hawthorne, California. The 'D' is the faster and all-wheel-drive version of the Model S electric sedan, capable of accelerating to 60 miles per hour in just over 3 seconds. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Drivers test the new Tesla 'D' model which is a faster and all-wheel-drive version of the Model S electric sedan at the Hawthorne Airport in Los Angeles on October 9, 2014. While Tesla produces relatively few vehicles, it has become a star in the sector due to keen demand and a reputation for high quality. A surge in its share price over the past year has pushed its value over $30 billion. AFP PHOTO/Mark RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
Drivers wait to try the new Tesla 'D' model which is a faster and all-wheel-drive version of the Model S electric sedan at the Hawthorne Airport in Los Angeles on October 9, 2014. While Tesla produces relatively few vehicles, it has become a star in the sector due to keen demand and a reputation for high quality. A surge in its share price over the past year has pushed its value over $30 billion. AFP PHOTO/Mark RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
Tesla founder and chief executive Elon Musk unveils the dual engine chassis of the new Tesla 'D' model which is a faster and all-wheel-drive version of the Model S electric sedan at the Hawthorne Airport in Los Angeles on October 9, 2014. While Tesla produces relatively few vehicles, it has become a star in the sector due to keen demand and a reputation for high quality. A surge in its share price over the past year has pushed its value over $30 billion. AFP PHOTO/Mark RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
Drivers test the new Tesla 'D' model which is a faster and all-wheel-drive version of the Model S electric sedan at the Hawthorne Airport in Los Angeles on October 9, 2014. While Tesla produces relatively few vehicles, it has become a star in the sector due to keen demand and a reputation for high quality. A surge in its share price over the past year has pushed its value over $30 billion. AFP PHOTO/Mark RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
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