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SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches from Cape Canaveral

Rocket carries Japanese communications satellite into space

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket and Japanese communications satellite from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station early Sunday morning.

SpaceX also landed the Falcon 9's first stage on the deck of a ship stationed down range in the Atlantic Ocean.

News 6 partner Florida Today reports the Falcon 9 rocket's 1:26 a.m. launch successfully sent the JCSAT-16 satellite on its way to an orbit more than 22,000 miles over the equator for Tokyo-based Sky Perfect JSAT, Asia's largest satellite operator with 17 now in space.

Less than 10 minutes after liftoff, the first stage of the Falcon 9 deployed four landing legs and touched down on the football field-sized deck of an unpiloted parked roughly 400 miles offshore.

SpaceX considers booster landings during launches to high orbits, like Sunday's, to have the highest degree of difficulty. The rocket flies faster than on missions to low orbits, and is subjected to more intense heating as it drops about 75 miles back to Earth.

The mission is SpaceX's second in just over three months for Tokyo-based Sky Perfect JSAT, Asia's largest satellite operator with 16 in orbit.

The new satellite, called JCSAT-16, will serve as an orbital spare for that fleet. A Falcon 9 successfully launched JCSAT-14 from Launch Complex 40 on May 6.