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SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket: From launch to landing in photos and video

SpaceX launch

The SpaceX Falcon 9 launch appears in the distance from the back of a dockside restaurant along the Indian River in Florida.

(Tim Shortt / AP)

As the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket landed back at Cape Canaveral on Monday night after blasting 11 satellites into orbit, company employees clapped and cheered.

There was a lot riding on this launch's success. Six months ago, an unmanned SpaceX rocket exploded while carrying supplies to the International Space Station.

Monday night marked the first time a rocket has successfully landed during a commercial launch. The historic landing of the first-stage booster back at Cape Canaveral could potentially lead to an era of cheaper space travel through reusable spacecraft.

Here's a visual timeline of what led up to Monday's launch and landing.

Before the launch

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on a resupply mission to the orbiting International Space Station breaks apart June 28 after launching from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. (Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel/TNS)

Monday's launch was the first since June 28, when a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket disintegrated just two minutes after liftoff. The rocket was carrying $110 million worth of supplies for NASA to the International Space Station.

In July, Elon Musk, chief executive of Hawthorne-based SpaceX, said a preliminary investigation found that the explosion was caused by the failure of a two-foot long strut that held down a helium bottle in the rocket's second stage.

The rocket

This photo of the Falcon 9 rocket was taken Dec. 10 before the launch. (SpaceX)

Falcon 9 has a two-stage configuration. The first-stage booster has nine engines and is intended to land shortly after liftoff for reuse. The second stage has an engine that allows it to separate from the first-stage booster and deliver the cargo to the correct orbit.

The launch

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Monday, Dec. 21, 2015. (Craig Bailey/Florida Today via AP)

The launch had been delayed several times so SpaceX employees could fix glitches in the rocket's redesign, which was intended to give it more power. On Thursday, Musk tweeted that the fuel was "presenting some challenges." Three days later, he tweeted again that he chose to delay the launch one more day so that conditions would be slightly better.

Monday's event is the first launch of the Falcon 9 rocket since a failed mission to the International Space Station in June. (Craig Bailey/Florida Today via AP)

The rocket finally launched at 8:29 p.m. Eastern time Monday. It was carrying 11 satellites for New Jersey-based Orbcomm.

The landing

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket successfully lands upright at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. (SpaceX)

The first-stage booster turned around and headed back to the landing site after the second stage separated and continued to orbit with the satellites. The rocket landed about 10 minutes after liftoff.

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