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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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Christine Lunsford
Producer and Contributing Writer

Christine Lunsford joined the team in 2010 as a freelance producer and later became a contributing writer, covering astrophotography images, astronomy photos and amazing space galleries and more. During her more than 10 years with, oversaw the site's monthly skywatching updates and produced overnight features and stories on the latest space discoveries. She enjoys learning about subjects of all kinds.