The unmanned Falcon 9 rocket, launched by SpaceX and carrying NOAA's Deep Space Climate Observatory Satellite, lifts off from launch pad 40 the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Florida February 11, 2015.  REUTERS/Scott Audette  The unmanned Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from launch pad 40 the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape CanaveralThomson Reuters

A little after 8:30 p.m. ET on December 21, SpaceX launched the most powerful version yet of its 229-foot-tall Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral.

Shortly after the launch, SpaceX successfully guided part of the rocket back to Earth and landed it upright back on the launch pad at Landing Zone 1.

This success has the potential to change spaceflight as we know it.

Here's how the historic landing worked, and what it might mean for spaceflight.

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