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In Photos: SpaceX Launches X-37B Space Plane, Lands Falcon 9 Rocket

Main Engine Cutoff

SpaceX

Roughly 2.5 minutes into the flight, the Falcon 9's two stages separated. While the second stage continued hauling the X-37B to orbit, the first stage turned around to stick an upright landing at Cape Canaveral.

Grid Fins Deployed

SpaceX

Before reentry, the Falcon 9 rocket deployed its hypersonic grid fins, which help to guide the rocket stage as it returns to Earth for an upright landing.

Stage 1 Entry Burn

SpaceX

About 2 minutes and 20 seconds before touchdown, the Falcon 9's first stage began its reentry burn.

Homing in on Florida

SpaceX

Florida comes into view as the Falcon 9 prepares for landing.

Stage 1 Landing Burn

SpaceX

Just seconds before landing, the Falcon 9 performed its final landing burn to slow down its approach.

'X' Marks the Spot

SpaceX

The Falcon 9 first stage approaches Landing Zone 1, a SpaceX facility at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, which is next door to KSC.

Almost There

SpaceX

The Falcon 9 rocket had a smooth descent on its way to Landing Zone 1. This marked SpaceX's first use of titanium alloy grid fins (seen extended at top) instead of aluminum fins for stability during descent and landings.

Stay on Target

SpaceX

Right on target, the Falcon 9 makes its final approach for a touchdown at Landing Zone 1. The landing would mark SpaceX's 16th booster touchdown for a Falcon 9 first stage.

Another Success for SpaceX!

SpaceX

Touchdown! After 8 minutes and 14 seconds, the Falcon 9 successfully completed its mission with another impressive upright landing. This was the 16th such landing for SpaceX.

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