WATCH: SpaceX Successfully Launches Satellite Into Orbit in Historic Flight With Used Rocket Booster

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket roared to life and streaked away through a twilight sky Thursday, boosting an SES communications satellite into orbit in the first fight of a previously flown first stage, a convincing validation of company founder Elon Musk’s drive to lower launch costs by recovering, refurbishing and re-launching rocket stages.

Launched last April to help lift a space station-bound cargo ship into orbit, the first stage’s nine Merlin 1D engines fired up at 6:27 p.m. EDT (GMT-5) and appeared to perform flawlessly during their second fight, propelling the rocket out of the dense lower atmosphere before falling away to attempt its second landing on an off-shore droneship.

While the Falcon 9’s second stage continued pushing the SES 10 communications satellite toward its initial orbit, the first stage restarted three engines and plunged back into the discernible atmosphere, guiding itself tail first toward the SpaceX droneship stationed a few hundred miles east of Cape Canaveral.

Because of the heavy weight of the SES-10 relay station and the demands of its initial orbit, the rocket barely had enough left over propellant for a final burn to lower itself to a safe touchdown on the “Of Course I Still Love You,” the same droneship it landed on last year.

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But Thursday’s descent came off without a hitch, four steering fins at the top of the stage kept the booster properly oriented, four landing legs deployed as planned and the now well-used booster settled to a picture-perfect landing near the center of the droneship’s deck.

SpaceX engineers watching the landing on large displays at the company’s mission control center in Hawthorne, Calif., burst into cheers and applause as the landing engine shut down, leaving the booster upright and in apparently good condition.

“We just had an incredible day today, the first reflight of an orbital-class booster,” Musk said from the launch control center in Cape Canaveral. “It did its mission perfectly, dropped off the second stage, came back and landed on the droneship, right on the bullseye. It’s an amazing day, I think, for space as a whole, for the space industry.”

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SOURCE: CBS News, William Harwood