SpaceX successfully launched a rocket into orbit Saturday for the first time since a launchpad explosion last fall destroyed another rocket and its $200 million payload, just days before their scheduled flight.
The Falcon 9 rocket launched from a U.S. Air Force base in California’s central coast, carrying 10 satellites for Virginia-based communications company Iridium. Its first stage then returned to Earth and landed on a drone ship in the Pacific Ocean, a maneuver the spaceflight company has completed several times already.
The successful launch restores some momentum for Elon Musk’s SpaceX. The company went into hibernation after its rocket and the Israeli communications satellite on board went up in flames during a fueling process. SpaceX, along with several federal aviation and transportation agencies, spent four months investigating the incident. It announced the results earlier this month, saying the explosion was caused by a failure of the rocket’s helium tanks.
SpaceX needed this successful launch to reassure NASA, which is expecting the company to begin flying astronauts to the International Space Station next year. Last week, a safety advisory group within the space agency called for scrutiny of SpaceX’s rocket fueling process.