"The Falcon has landed," a commentator said yesterday above the screams and cheers of people gathered at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California.

Video images on SpaceX's webcast showed the first stage of the rocket touching down at Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The tall, white portion of the rocket glided back to Earth, its engines burning bright orange against a black night sky.

The first stage of the rocket appeared to settle down firmly and stick the landing.

Video images were soon cut off and the SpaceX live webcast returned to its commentators, who described the successful deployment of the rocket's payload of 11 satellites for ORBCOMM, a global communications company.

"Congratulations @SpaceX on your successful vertical landing of the first stage back on Earth!" NASA said in a tweet.

The company, headed by Internet tycoon Elon Musk, is striving to revolutionise the rocket industry, which currently loses many millions of dollars in jettisoned machinery and sophisticated rocket components after each launch.

Several attempts to land the Falcon 9's first stage on a floating ocean platform have failed with the rocket either colliding with the autonomous drone ship or tipping over.

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