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SpaceX launches rocket from NASA's historic moon pad

Published:Monday | February 20, 2017 | 12:19 AM
The SpaceX Falcon rocket launches from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida yesterday, carrying a load of supplies for the International Space Station.



A SpaceX rocket soared from NASA's long-idled moonshot pad yesterday, sending up space station supplies from the exact spot where astronauts embarked on the lunar landings nearly a half-century ago.

It was the first flight from NASA's legendary Launch Complex 39A since the shuttle programme ended almost six years ago, and SpaceX's first liftoff from Florida since a rocket explosion last summer.

The crowds at Kennedy Space Center watched eagerly as the unmanned Falcon 9 rocket took flight with a cargo ship bound for the International Space Station. They got barely 10 seconds of viewing before clouds swallowed up the Falcon as it thundered skyward.

As an extra special treat, SpaceX landed its leftover booster back at Cape Canaveral eight minutes after liftoff, a feat accomplished only twice before. Most of SpaceX's eight successful booster landings - rocket recycling at its finest - have used ocean platforms. As they did during the shuttle era, sonic booms heralded yesterday's return.

SpaceX employees at company flight headquarters in Southern California cheered as the 15-storey booster landed upright at its designated parking spot at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

SpaceX chief Elon Musk celebrated the successful touchdown via Twitter.

"Baby came back," he tweeted.

The celebratory roar grew when the Dragon cargo ship successfully reached orbit a couple minutes later. It will reach the space station Wednesday, delivering 5,500 pounds of food, clothes and experiments.

It was SpaceX's second launch attempt in a row. Saturday's effort was foiled by last-minute rocket concerns. The repairs paid off, and even the clouds parted enough to ensure a safe flight.