Update August 24th, 3:05PM ET: SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket landed on the company’s drone ship 10 minutes after take off, marking the ninth successful rocket landing for SpaceX this year and the fifteenth recovery overall. Meanwhile, the vehicle also successfully deployed FORMOSAT-5 into its intended orbit. That means SpaceX has pulled off a dozen missions in 2017 — the most it has ever done in a year and one more than Russia so far this year.
Original Story: A little over a week after its last launch, SpaceX is back at it with a rocket launch out of Vandenberg, California this afternoon. The company’s Falcon 9 rocket is sending an Earth-observation satellite called FORMOSAT-5 into orbit for Taiwan’s space agency. And after launch, SpaceX will pull off its rocket landing stunt again, by having its Falcon 9 touch down on one of the company’s drone ships in the Pacific Ocean.
With today’s launch, it seems that SpaceX is picking back up its mission pace. This year, the company has started to make good on its promise to do a mission every two weeks, by launching with more frequency and regularity since May. However, SpaceX took a bit of a break for the month of July — partly because the launch sites in Florida were closed during that month to undergo maintenance. Still, the company has counted 11 successful missions so far in 2017. Prior to this, the most SpaceX had ever launched in a year was eight rockets.
With more launches comes more of SpaceX’s signature landings, and this year, the company has yet to lose any of its Falcon 9 rockets during a landing attempt. So far, SpaceX has pulled off eight landings in 2017, and today’s touch down could bring that number to nine. Additionally, SpaceX has finally started reusing the rockets it has recovered, sending two previously flown boosters into space this year. The company also plans to launch another used booster in September.
Today’s flight may be seemingly routine for SpaceX, but its payload is extra special since FORMOSAT-5 is the first satellite exclusively designed and built in Taiwan. It’s meant to sit in a Sun-synchronous orbit, in which the satellite will pass over the same patches of Earth at the same times each day. From there, the satellite will gather images and data about the Earth’s surface to help evaluate natural disasters, monitor the environment, and aid Taiwan’s national security, according to the Taipei Times.
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 is slated to lift off at 2:51PM ET. There’s a 42-minute launch window, too, so the vehicle can take off up until 3:33PM ET. Check back here about 15 minutes prior to launch to watch SpaceX’s coverage of the mission live.