SpaceX Returns to Flight With Successful Falcon 9 Launch

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SpaceX's Falcon 9 returned to flight, launching successfully from Vandenburg Air Force Base in California Saturday. (WPVI)

SpaceX's Falcon 9 returned to flight, launching successfully from Vandenburg Air Force Base in California today, just four and a half months after a fiery explosion destroyed Facebook's AMOS-6 satellite.

An investigation conducted by SpaceX (with assists from the Air Force, NASA, and the National Transportation Safety Board) concluded that the September 1 explosion was likely caused by a failure of a pressurized second-stage tank.

The company, which is run by billionaire Elon Musk, vowed to change the fueling procedures to prevent the incident from recurring, and the FAA granted a launch license.

The launch today delivered 10 Iridium satellites to low-earth orbit for use in mobile communications.

After separation, the rocket's first stage landed on the droneship "Just Read the Instructions," stationed in the Pacific Ocean.

SpaceX nailed a similar droneship landing back in April. Returning the first stage to earth enables the company to reuse the rocket, drastically reducing the cost of launch.

Musk has said his ultimate goal is to start a colony on Mars by reducing the cost of a one-way trip from $10 billion per person to just $200,000.

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