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

Vandenberg Launch

With a picturesque backdrop of a sunny and mostly clear sky, SpaceX successfully launched a Falcon 9 rocket late Thursday morning from Vandenberg Air Force Base.

The Formosat-5 satellite lifted off from coastal Vandenberg Air Force Base at 11:51 a.m. PDT on Thursday atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

Formosat-5 was originally contracted to launch aboard Falcon 1, SpaceX's first orbital launch vehicle.

Following stage separation, Falcon 9's first stage successfully landed on the "Just Read the Instructions" droneship stationed in the Pacific Ocean. SpaceX, during the launch webcast, declared the launch a success.

But getting Formosat-5 aloft was the main point of today's mission.

What's more, SpaceX's mission was to send the first exclusively-made Taiwanese satellite to space.

NSPO Deputy Director-General Yu Shiann-jen (余憲政) on Monday defended the satellite's development, saying: "Formosat-5 is capable of delivering colorful imagery and resolve down to 4m, better than the 8m of Formosat-2".

At the time of the contract, SpaceX expected to launch Formosat-5 by early 2014. The company also plans to launch another used booster in September.

SpaceX will attempt to land the rocket's first stage on a drone ship in the Pacific Ocean while the second stage continues toward orbit. As Falcon 9 launches become more routine and less newsworthy, business can boom for SpaceX while also laying the groundwork and demand for Musk's next big thing.

SpaceX has always been obsessed with reducing the cost of spaceflight by employing reusable rockets that can launch multiple missions. It will open at 10:30 a.m. and close right before the launch.

Several others were rebooked on the next Sherpa adapter flying on a Falcon 9 next year.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket rises from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

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