Elon Musk landed his sixth Falcon 9 rocket after launching a satellite into orbit

SpaceX, Elon Musk’s aerospace manufacturing corporation, successfully completed the flight of its sixth Falcon 9 rocket this morning, as it landed in the ocean on a drone ship.

After taking off at 1:26 a.m. ET from Cape Canaveral, Florida, the Falcon 9 was tasked — and succeeded — with launching a Japanese communications satellite, the JCSAT-16, into geostationary transfer orbit, or GTO. Achieving GTO, a “highly elliptical orbit that takes the satellite 20,000 miles out beyond Earth’s surface,” according to The Verge, is extremely difficult due to the high speeds and amount of fuel required for takeoff.

The Falcon 9 is family of two-stage-to-orbit rockets designed and manufactured by SpaceX, which involves two separate stages. Propulsion is provided one after the other to allow the rocket to achieve orbital velocity. The rockets have nine engines, hence the name, and can lift payloads up to 22,800 kilograms (50,300 pounds) to low Earth orbit, and up to 8,300 kilograms (18,300 pounds) to GTO, according to SpaceX.

The key to the two-stage-to-orbit system is that SpaceX designed the first stage to be reusable. Proving this specific design reliable, the company could ultimately cut costs, opening more possibilities for space transportation, which translates to easier, more affordable, and more efficient travel.

Sunday morning’s launch specifically used a Falcon 9 Full Thrust, a 30 percent higher performance version of 2013’s Falcon 9 v1.1, which was 60 percent heavier than its previous model.

While SpaceX has not yet launched any of its previously used rockets, the stockpile of recovered first-stage rockets is now increasing. According to The Verge, Musk said the company intends to launch its first landed rocket this fall.

With the tests, SpaceX hopes to ultimately get the Falcon 9 Full Thrust to a human rating for transporting NASA astronauts to the International Space Station, which would fulfill part of its Commercial Crew Transportation Capability contract.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Booze-filled ski poles and crypto piggy banks

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: Passenger spacecraft, Facebook data breach, and more

This episode of Digital Trends Live saw the fourth launch of passenger spacecraft SpaceShipTwo, and a Facebook data breach. We were also joined by the founder of Forter, Michael Reitblat, to discuss how to keep your data safe.
Emerging Tech

We’re going to the Red Planet! All the past, present, and future missions to Mars

SpaceX isn't the only organization pining to visit the Red Planet. Here's a detailed list of all operational and planned missions to Mars, along with explanations of their objectives, spacecraft details, and mission proposals.
Emerging Tech

Virgin Galactic’s latest test flight takes it to the edge of space

Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic has successfully carried out its fourth powered flight in Mojave, California. It was the company's most ambitious test flight yet -- and bodes well for the future.
Emerging Tech

Prepare for liftoff: Here are all the important upcoming SpaceX rocket launches

From ISS resupply missions to a host of communication and scientific satellite launches, SpaceX has a busy year ahead. Here's a rundown of some of the company's most important missions slated for the next year.
Emerging Tech

Bright ‘hyperactive’ comet should be visible in the sky this weekend

An unusual green comet, 46P/Wirtanen, will be visible in the night sky this month as it makes its closest approach to Earth in 20 years. It may even be possible to see the comet without a telescope.
Emerging Tech

Meet the MIT scientist who’s growing semi-sentient cyborg houseplants

Elowan is a cybernetic plant that can respond to its surroundings. Tethered by a few wires and silver electrodes, the plant-robot hybrid can move in response to bioelectrochemical signals that reflect the plant’s light demands.
Emerging Tech

Gorgeous images show storms and cloud formations in the atmosphere of Jupiter

NASA's Juno mission arrived at Jupiter in 2016 and has been collecting data since then. NASA has shared an update on the progress of the mission as it reaches its halfway point, releasing stunning images of the planet as seen from orbit.
Emerging Tech

Beautiful image of young planets sheds new light on planet formation

Researchers examining protoplanetary disks -- the belts of dust that eventually form planets -- have shared fascinating images of the planets from their survey, showing the various stages of planet formation.
Emerging Tech

Delivery robot goes up in flames while out and about in California

A small meal-delivery robot suddenly caught fire in Berkeley, California, on Friday. The blaze was quickly tackled and no one was hurt, but the incident is nevertheless a troubling one for the fledgling robot delivery industry.
Emerging Tech

High-tech dancing robot turns out to be a guy in a costume

A Russian TV audience was impressed recently by an adult-sized "robot" that could dance and talk. But when some people began pointing out that its actions were a bit odd, the truth emerged ... it was a fella in a robot suit.
Emerging Tech

MIT’s smart capsule could be used to release drugs in response to a fever

Researchers have developed a 3D-printed capsule which can monitor patients' vital signs, transmit this information to a connected device, and release drugs in response to symptoms.
Emerging Tech

‘Crop duster’ robot is helping reseed the Great Barrier Reef with coral

In a world first, an undersea robot has delivered microscopic coral larvae to the Great Barrier Reef. Meet Larvalbot: the robot "crop duster" which dispenses coral babies on troubled reefs.
Emerging Tech

Self-driving dirt rally vehicle offers crash course in autonomous car safety

Georgia Tech's AutoRally initiative pushes self-driving cars to their limit by getting scaled-down autonomous vehicles to drive really, really fast and aggressively on dirt roads. Here's why.