SpaceX Launches Earth-Observing Satellite, Lands Rocket on Ship at Sea

After the rocket's nine Merlin 1D engines pass an automated health check the Falcon 9 is released from Space Launch Complex 4 East at Vandenberg Air Force Base California

Falcon 9 set to launch Taiwanese Formosat-5 from California

Hawthorne-based SpaceX launched a Taiwanese satellite into orbit Thursday aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base. The event will be streamed live.

About 10 minutes after the blastoff, SpaceX confirmed that it was able to successfully land the rocket's booster on a drone ship in the Pacific Ocean. Thursday's mission pushed SpaceX past Russian Federation, which has 11, for the most orbital launches of any single entity. SpaceX, during the launch webcast, declared the launch a success.

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Today's launch also included a rocket recovery attempt for the Falcon 9's first-stage booster. The Falcon 9's mission-launch FORMOSAT-5 satellite into space.

But getting Formosat-5 aloft was the main point of today's mission. The satellite was deployed into a sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude of 720 kilometers.

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The satellite was constructed by the Taiwan National Space Organization. The spacecraft carries cameras capable of producing panchromatic images at a resolution of two meters and color images at a resolution of four meters. SpaceX also had a couple of high-profile accidents, including a second-stage failure during a launch in 2015, and a launch pad accident in 2016.

SpaceX previously planned to fly a secondary payload, the Sherpa bus from Seattle-based Spaceflight Industries, which would have deployed almost 90 small satellites after separating from the Falcon 9 upper stage.

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It's hard to believe it was less than two years ago that a SpaceX Falcon 9 landing was an elusive and unprecedented achievement.

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