The rocket was carrying 11 satellites destined for low-Earth orbit. It’s important to note, this rocket isn’t a one-off affair, or a small test rocket like the Blue Origin New Shepard or SpaceX Grasshopper.
The Falcon 9 first stage landing is confirmed. Second stage continuing nominally. pic.twitter.com/RX2QKSl0z7
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) December 22, 2015
The Falcon 9 is a serious rocket, capable of reaching 124 miles up thanks to the 1.5 million pounds of thrust produced by its 9 engines. It’s designed to take serious payloads into serious orbit. The Blue Origin is capable of taking a few humans 62 miles into the sky — which is still great.
SpaceX previously attempted to land a Falcon 9 on a robotic barge. This time around, the company opted for terra firma and a massive concrete landing pad.
Landing a Falcon 9 rocket was a long time coming for SpaceX. The company used smaller test rockets called the Grasshopper to test the system. Gradually, over several launches, the smaller rocket reached new heights from several hundred feet to sub-orbit flight before returning to Earth and landing vertically.