CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., May 27 (UPI) -- The ambitious launch schedule of SpaceX continued with the successful blastoff of a Falcon 9 rocket on Friday afternoon, the aerospace company said.
After the launch was delayed Thursday and then postponed to Friday, the rocket lifted off a launch pad at Cape Canaveral, Fla., at 5:39 p.m. EDT -- right at the opening of the two-hour launch window.
The rocket was tasked with carrying a telecommunications satellite, THAICOM 8, into a geostationary transfer orbit 20,000 miles above Earth. SpaceX documented each stage of the mission on its Twitter account Friday.
Falcon 9 first stage has landed pic.twitter.com/5jbz9OdBsd— SpaceX (@SpaceX) May 27, 2016
As usual, the satellite launch was not the main event. The main course came a few minutes after takeoff, when SpaceX engineers landed the rocket's first stage on a floating platform in the Atlantic Ocean.
"Falcon 9 second stage and THAICOM 8 spacecraft in nominal orbit and coast. First stage has landed on the droneship," SpaceX tweeted a few minutes later, before noting that the THAICOM satellite had been deployed into a nominal supersynch transfer orbit.
Friday afternoon's rocket launch and landing attempt were streamed live online.
Last year, SpaceX's reusable rocket technology suffered a steep learning curve -- evidenced by a spate of failed landings, a few ending in spectacular explosions. The last several months have been much kinder to Elon Musk's aerospace venture.
Just before the new year, the company landed its first reusable rocket. That landing occurred on solid ground. This spring, SpaceX landed two of its rockets on an autonomous barge.
THAICOM 8 spacecraft has been deployed into a nominal supersynch transfer orbit pic.twitter.com/u6W7s3MqxB— SpaceX (@SpaceX) May 27, 2016
The rest of 2016 will remain busy for SpaceX, with the company expecting to launch a total of 18 rockets by the end of the year -- double last year's total.
Reusable rocket technology promises to transform the economics of rocketry and space travel. Despite Falcon 9's successes, many eyes remain on the company's Crew Dragon spacecraft, the vehicle that is expected to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station -- and eventually to the Moon, Mars and beyond.
SpaceX announced this week it is on pace to carry two NASA astronauts to the ISS by the end of next year. The test flight will be one of 24 scheduled SpaceX launches in 2017.
"We've got a lot to do by next year, but we're looking good," Benjamin Reed, director of SpaceX's commercial crew program, told reporters on Tuesday. "We're on track."