SpaceX successfully lands its Falcon 9 rocket after orbital launch

— 11:04 AM on December 22, 2015

In a milestone for the space industry, SpaceX's Falcon 9 unmanned rocket has successfully taken off and returned to Earth in a controlled landing, all in ten minutes' time. The Falcon 9 isn't the first time that an unmanned spacecraft has ever taken off and landed successfully, but it's a first for an orbital rocket.

The 23-story-high Falcon 9 went nearly 125 miles (200 km) into space before separating its second stage to deliver 11 ORBCOMM satellites. The first stage then landed safely in a designated spot just a few miles from the launch pad. In its previous attempts, SpaceX had tried to land the rocket on ocean platforms, but with no success.

This event potentially heralds an era of more affordable space shipping and travel. According to Ars Technica, Elon Musk said that despite the $60 million price tag on the rocket itself, the propellant for each Falcon 9 launch costs only $200,000, a pittance in the context of space travel. Be sure to watch the full launch video—it's glorious and historic.

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