SCIENCE
12/22/2015 12:48 am ET Updated Dec 22, 2015

SpaceX Makes History With 'Insane' Launch, Proving Rockets Can Be Reused

The private company's rocket hauled 11 satellites into space, then landed back on Earth to huge congratulations.

SpaceX made history Monday night when it successfully launched a Falcon 9 rocket into orbit, deployed 11 satellites, and then brought the 15-story booster back to Earth for a soft, vertical landing just six miles from where it took off at Cape Canaveral, Florida.

It marks the first time billionaire Elon Musk's Space Exploration Technologies Corp., or SpaceX, has attempted to land a rocket on land and the first ever successful attempt to recover a rocket from an orbital flight, NBC News reports. 

As the rocket came to rest on its landing pad, a SpaceX webcast commentator confirmed, "The Falcon has landed," drawing an eruption of applause from those gathered at the based private space flight company's headquarters in Hawthorne, California.

Monday's breakthrough comes just six months after a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket exploded shortly after takeoff while carrying supplies to the International Space Station. Several other previous attempts to land a Falcon 9 on floating platforms in the Atlantic also were unsuccessful. 

In an attempt to explain just how complicated the mission was, one SpaceX commentator compared it with "launching a pencil over the Empire State Building, having it reverse, come back down, and land on a shoebox on the ground during a windstorm." 

"It's an insane thing to try and do," he said.

The successful landing actually was a second objective of the mission, according to SpaceX. The first was to deploy the rocket's payload -- 11 ORBCOMM satellites -- into low orbit, which company officials said went smoothly.

A SpaceX goal is to develop rockets that can be reused, ultimately making space flight cheaper. But Musk said the one launched Monday won't fly again. 

"I think we’ll probably keep this one on the ground, just [because] it’s kind of unique," he reportedly said during a press call. "It’s the first one we’ve brought back."

The congratulations SpaceX received from the space community following Monday's success were extensive.

As The Associated Press reports, Brig. Gen. Wayne Monteith, the top commander at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, noted that the returning booster "placed the exclamation mark on 2015."

"This was a first for us at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, and I can't even begin to describe the excitement the team feels right now having been a part of this historic first-stage rocket landing," Monteith said in a statement.

Blue Origin, billionaire Jeff Bezos' rocket company, successfully landed a booster last month in West Texas. That rocket, though, had been used for a suborbital flight, according to AP.

See below for a the full webcast of SpaceX's Falcon 9 launch.

Also on HuffPost:

PHOTO GALLERY
Spaceships Revolutionizing Space Travel
CONVERSATIONS