It's one small step. The very first Falcon 9 first stage has successfully landed at Landing Zone 1, formally Launch Complex 13, of Cape Canaveral after launching as part of the OG-2 return to flight mission from Space Launch Complex 40 just 10 minutes before landing.
The Falcon Has Landed!” gushed exuberant SpaceX officials following tonight’s (Dec 21) history making ground landing of the firms spent Falcon 9 boost stage barely 10 minutes after if launched on a critical mission to deliver a constellation of communications satellites to Earth orbit.
he Falcon 9 is equipped with four landing legs and four grid fins to enable the propulsive landing back on the ground at the Cape, once the first stage separates and relights a Merlin 1D engine.
About 3 minutes after liftoff and about 60 miles altitude, the spent first stage separated from the second stage which continued to orbit with the Orbcomm satellites.
While moving at extremely high speed, the rocket was then commanded to fire cold gas nitrogen attitude thrusters to reorient itself and to turn the vehicle around – its sort of like riding on a broomstick in a hurricane. It then conducted a boostback burn with a first stage Merlin 1D engine to create a reversed ballistic arc. Then it conducted a reentry burn and finally a landing burn above the ground at Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral.