(Bloomberg) -- Elon Musk's rocket company launched a commercial satellite for Argentina on Sunday evening, marking SpaceX's 17th mission of 2018 in the type of steady success that so far has eluded his electric-car maker Tesla Inc.
The Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base on California's central coast about 7:21 p.m. local time. About 8 minutes after liftoff, the rocket's first stage returned and landed at Vandenberg in a first for a California-based SpaceX launch. The second stage deployed SAOCOM 1A, an Argentine Earth-imaging satellite, roughly 12 minutes after the launch.
Falcon has landed
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Having a rocket's first stage return safely to Earth is part Space Exploration Technologies Corp.'s strategy to reduce launch costs and win market share. SpaceX already has recovered rocket boosters several times, both on land in Florida and on drone ships at sea.
Musk is the chief executive officer, chairman and largest shareholder of both SpaceX and Tesla, two companies that are pushing frontiers of technology while surrounded by different degrees of drama. Closely held SpaceX's valuation has climbed to about $28 billion as it racks up successful launches, making it the third-most valuable venture-backed startup in the U.S. after Uber Technologies Inc. and Airbnb Inc. SpaceX completed a record 18 missions in 2017 and is on track to exceed that number this year.