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SpaceX launches rocket carrying Japanese satellite; booster lands on drone ship

SpaceX launches rocket carrying Japanese satellite; booster lands on drone ship
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket streaks over the Cocoa Beach Pier in Florida after its liftoff from Cape Canaveral early Sunday. (Craig Rubadoux / Florida Today)

SpaceX launched a Japanese commercial communications satellite early Sunday morning and then  landed the first stage of its rocket on a drone ship.

The Falcon 9 rocket lifted off at 1:26 a.m. Eastern Time from Cape Canaveral, Fla., carrying the JCSAT-16 satellite into a geosynchronous transfer orbit. At 1:40 a.m., the first stage landed on a platform floating several hundred miles off the Florida coast.

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The secondary objective of landing the first stage of Falcon 9 on the drone ship — named Of Course I Still Love You — is key to the SpaceX mission of reusing rockets.

The satellite, operated by SKY Perfect JSAT Corp., will serve as a backup transmitter for the rest of the communications company's satellite fleet.

In May, SpaceX successfully launched the JCSAT-14 satellite into orbit. It replaced another of the Japanese company's satellites and provided coverage to Asia, Oceania, Russia and the Pacific Islands.

At the time, the Hawthorne company repeated the successful landing of its first-stage rocket booster on a drone ship.

The first open-ocean booster landing was in April, giving more credence to Chief Executive Elon Musk's plans to reduce launch costs by reusing rockets.

SpaceX has successfully landed two first-stage rocket boosters on land, in July and December.

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UPDATES:

10:40 p.m.: Updated with landing on drone ship.

10:35 p.m.: Updated with launch.

This article was first posted at 6 a.m.

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