A SpaceX Falcon rocket lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center on Monday to boost a classified spy satellite into orbit for the US military then turned around and touched down at a nearby landing pad.
SpaceX on Monday blasted off a secretive US payload, known as NROL-76, marking the first military launch for the aerospace company headed by billionaire tycoon Elon Musk, various media reported today.
The payload for the National Reconnaissance Office, which makes and operates spy satellites for the US, soared into the sky atop a Falcon 9 rocket in the morning,
About 10 minutes after launch, the scorched first stage of the rocket came back to Earth and landed upright at Cape Canaveral, marking the fourth successful solid ground landing for SpaceX.
Live video of the launch showed the first and second stages of the rocket separating about two and a half minutes into the flight.
The larger, first stage, made a gentle arc and powered its nitrogen thrusters to guide it back to Earth. The rocket then set itself down, gently and steadily, in the center of the 300-foot (91-meter) circular landing zone.
Musk is leading an effort in the rocket industry to re-use costly parts rather than jettison them into the ocean after each launch. SpaceX has already made multiple successful landings, some on floating platforms -- known as drone ships -- in the ocean.
The launch was initially planned for Sunday, but was postponed in the last seconds before liftoff due to a sensor issue with the rocket.
The sensor in question was replaced ahead of Monday's attempt.Little was known about the payload due to its classified nature.