SpaceX has successfully launched and landed its second reused Falcon 9 booster on Friday, pulling off the impressive feat for the second time in less than three months. Carrying BulgariaSat-1, a communications satellite, the Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from the historic Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center at 3.10pm EST.
The rocket's two stages separated nearly three minutes into the flight with the first stage making its way back to Earth. The rocket's 14-story-tall first stage touched down on one of the company's autonomous drone ships, Of Course I Still Love You, in the Atlantic Ocean about eight minutes after launch.
This was the second time the first stage successfully launched and landed this year after it was first used in January.
The landing was also the most challenging one yet for SpaceX's returning booster due to launch conditions as well.
Prior to the launch, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said the rocket will experience its highest ever re-entry force and heat due to the high trajectory required by the satellite payload and there was a "good chance [the] rocket booster doesn't make it back."
However, the first stage managed to touch down safely on SpaceX's drone ship, lightly off target.
The launch marked the second time that SpaceX has reflown a Falcon 9 first stage after it first did so on 30 March with the launch of the SES-10 communications satellite. So far, SpaceX has been able to recover 12 rocket boosters, fire off two reused Falcon 9 first stages and launch a used Dragon cargo capsule so far.
Musk has long championed reusability in an effort to slash launch costs and space travel prices.
"It's starting to feel kinda normal to reuse rockets. Good. That's how it is for cars and airplanes and how it should be for rockets," Musk tweeted earlier in June.
Friday's successful launch kicked the historic "weekend doubleheader" for SpaceX. The company is planning to launch yet another Falcon 9 on the other side of the country on Sunday (25 June). That mission will launch 10 Iridium NEXT satellites into orbit from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 4.25 EST.
SpaceX will also attempt to land that Falcon 9's first stage on the Just Read The Instructions drone ship in the Pacific Ocean.