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Against all odds, SpaceX successfully landed its fastest-moving Falcon 9 rocket yet

If Elon Musk were a betting man, he would’ve probably put his money on a failed landing for today’s SpaceX flight. Despite the company’s successful landing last month, Musk knew that today’s rocket would return to Earth much faster and much hotter after depositing its payload. That means the rocket would need to burn more fuel to slow itself down without bursting into flames like four of SpaceX’s previous attempts.

Elon Musk is, in fact, a betting man, but his gambles are backed by the calculations of SpaceX’s rocket scientists. He gambled that the Falcon 9 could successfully launch from Cape Canaveral this morning. He gambled that the rocket could deliver it’s payload, Japanese commercial satellite JCSAT-14, into space. He didn’t, however, bet that the rocket would return home safely.

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On its website, SpaceX suggested that a safe landing was not likely. Musk was a bit more optimistic – before take off, he tweeted that the odds of a safe landing were maybe even. The Falcon 9 came in hot after decoupling from its satellite. Far off the coast of Florida, an autonomous spaceport drone ship (ASDS) called “Of Course I Still Love You” waited in the night. The landing was fast and hard, but the rocket stuck it like an olympic gymnast. The applause, chants, and screams of understandably excited SpaceX team could be heard through the livestream.

Musk succinctly tweeted, “Woohoo!”and  followed up shortly thereafter with the more elaborative, “Yeah, this was a three engine landing burn, so triple deceleration of last flight.”

SpaceX hopes to return and reuse their primary rocket stages to save costs on delivering their payloads into space. The company hopes to relaunch their previous Falcon 9 –the first to successfully return to land at sea– later this year.