SpaceX Pulls Off Its 16th Falcon 9 Rocket Landing

It's the company's tenth rocket landing of 2017.

SpaceX launched an Air Force test vehicle into orbit this morning at 10 a.m. Eastern from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, as well as pulling off its 16th Falcon 9 first stage booster landing, navigating the rocket down through the clouds to solid ground at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. This is the company’s 10th rocket landing of the year — one step forward in what has been a perfect launch record for 2017.

The company has spent the last couple of weeks preparing for Thursday’s mission, but given how successful CEO Elon Musk and his team have been over the course of the year, there was little doubt the company would find success.

The payload launched into orbit was the [X-37B mini-shuttle]( — a vehicle the military is using to test out technologies related to long-term missions in orbit. The spacecraft, operated by Boeing, is essentially 30 feet long, with a 15-foot wingspan. This was the first time SpaceX has been contracted with sending an Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) into orbit, but it likely won’t be the last.

Here’s the launch:

The OTV-5 mission launch from Kennedy Space Center


And here’s the successful landing:

The first stage booster landing at Cape Canaveral


For its less privacy-concerned clients, SpaceX usually shows the capsule bound for the ISS or the comms satellite floating away, but not this time. Because this was a military mission, the SpaceX webcast for this mission cut off fairly soon after the safe landing.

Last time X-37B was in space, it stayed there for more than 700 days, before returning to Earth in May. There’s no word on when it’s coming back to Earth, but for the sake of perspective, 700 days from today is August 8, 2019. When it lands, it might again look like this:

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