A Falcon 9 rocket carrying an Earth-observing FORMOSAT-5 satellite for Taiwan launched to space at 2:51 p.m. ET on Thursday, with the first stage of the booster turning right around and landing vertically on a drone ship in the Pacific Ocean about 10 minutes later.
This mission marks the 12th for SpaceX this year, and it comes after a hard 2016, during which one of the company’s Falcons exploded on a launch pad before a routine test.
SpaceX’s 2017, however, has been one for the company’s history books. The company has launched more rockets this year than any other year before, and we still have about five months to go.
Thursday’s Falcon 9 booster is the 15th successful rocket landing performed by the company since SpaceX stuck its first landing in 2015.
SpaceX has long been obsessed with reducing the cost of spaceflight by employing reusable rockets that can launch multiple missions.
The company is drawing ever-closer to this goal through these rocket landings. SpaceX has already launched rockets that have returned to Earth multiple times, thereby demonstrating their reusability.
The landed booster will now return to shore and may be refurbished for another flight at some point in the future.