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Relive SpaceX's Return-to-Flight Falcon 9 Launch with These Awesome Pictures

A Fiery Return


The first stage of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rockets are powered by nine Merlin engines to reach orbit. But during descent, a single engine (as seen in action here) is enough to land the rocket.

This spectacular photo from SpaceX's drone ship "Just Read The Instructions" shows the Falcon 9 being silhouetted by the sun just seconds before touchdown.

NEXT: Right on Target

Right on Target


And here it is, the Falcon 9 first stage after its successful landing on the "Just Read the Instructions" drone ship. The booster is blackened from its fiery descent back to Earth.

NEXT: Meanwhile, Up in Space

Meanwhile, Up in Space


While the Falcon 9 first stage was making its way back to Earth, the second stage was fulfilling the primary mission to deliver its 10 Iridium NEXT satellites into orbit. It took about 59 minutes for the satellites to reach the right position in orbit for their deployment. You can see several of the satellites in this view from a camera on the second stage just before the satellites were deployed.

NEXT: A Job Well Done

A Job Well Done


It took about 15 minutes for all 10 of the Iridium NEXT satellites to separate from the Falcon 9 upper stage, which is looking mighty empty in this view from the camera that minutes earlier had an eye full of satellites.

NEXT: More to Come

More to Come


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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter.