With a handful of successful launches and return flights of its reusable rocket system already under its belt, SpaceX is feeling pretty confident these days. An early morning launch today for the US Department of Defense to send a spy satellite into orbit suggests that the government is feeling quite confident in the company’s abilities as well, and while the launch and seemingly perfect return of its Falcon 9 rocket might now quality as “business as usual” for the company, the video of the rocket’s first stage descending and landing is probably the most awe-inspiring one yet.
The satellite launch, which was the first collaboration between the US Department of Defense and SpaceX, went off without a hitch. Because the rocket’s payload was a matter of national security, it goes without saying that viewers watching the live stream of the launch weren’t treated to many juicy details, but we did get to see a really fantastic look at the Falcon 9’s first stage separating and then flying back to its landing pad. Unlike some of the more recent, highly-publicized SpaceX launches, this one landed on solid ground rather than a barge.
As you can see by the video above, SpaceX has greatly improved the production quality of its launch live streams, turning the company’s growing spaceflight business into a public spectacle that anyone can enjoy. If you don’t feel like watching all the lead-up to the actual shot, you can skip to around the 18 minute mark, which is when the fireworks finally begin.