A SpaceX rocket touched down on a landing pad floating in the Atlantic Ocean on Friday despite plunging through the atmosphere twice as fast as the rocket that made the company's first ocean landing last month.
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The rocket flying Friday lofted a five-ton TV broadcasting satellite toward an orbit more than 20,000 miles higher than where the International Space Station flies. During the last Falcon 9 mission in April, the rocket dispatched a cargo ship to the station, which flies about 250 miles above Earth.
"Rocket re-entry is a lot faster and hotter than last time, so odds of making it are maybe even, but we should learn a lot either way," SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk wrote on Twitter before the touchdown.
"Whohoo!!" Musk wrote minutes later as a live webcast showed the rocket, its four landing legs deployed, settling itself on the ocean platform stationed about 400 miles east of Cape Canaveral, Florida.
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"May need to increase size of rocket storage hangar," Musk quipped.
Friday's successful landing marks the third time SpaceX has returned a rocket intact after a mission. In December, a Falcon rocket touched down on a landing pad on the ground at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
SpaceX plans to test-fire the rocket that flew back in April, and if all goes well re-launch it later this year, possibly with a paying customer's satellite aboard, Musk told reporters last month. The first rocket to land will be displayed at the company's Hawthorne, California, headquarters.
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With Friday's successful launch, SpaceX intends to ramp up its flight rate, with missions expected about every three weeks. The company has more than 70 launches on its schedule, worth more than $10 billion.