The white Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida at 5:40 pm (2140 GMT) carrying the Thaicom 8 satellite.
The rocket returned to Earth about 10 minutes later, firing its engines and maneuvering with its fins to an upright position on a powered barge, known as a drone ship. This ship was positioned in the Atlantic Ocean some 420 miles (680 kilometers) off the Florida coast.
The live webcast was off for few seconds as the rocket neared the drone ship. "Rocket landing speed was close to design max," said SpaceX CEO Elon Musk on Twitter, noting that there was some "back and forth motion."
"Prob ok, but some risk of tipping," he added. Musk has an ambition to change the launch industry by making rocket components reusable, just like commercial airplanes.