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

"This is the 15th successful landing of a Falcon 9", said Lauren Lyons, the SpaceX webcast launch commentator.

The launch of the FORMOSAT-5 satellite was SpaceX's 12th orbital launch of the year. Eastern, at the beginning of a 42-minute launch window.

The rocket took off from SpaceX's launch facility 4E at California's Vandenberg Air Force Base as planned, carrying the NSPO's FORMOSAT-5 satellite to orbit, where it was deployed successfully.

The main payload of Formosat-5 is an optical "Remote Sensing Instrument", which will provide 6.5-foot (2 meters) resolution for black-and-white images and 13-foot (4 m) resolution for multi-spectral color images, SpaceX representatives wrote in a mission overview. The change in launch vehicles and delays in SpaceX's launch schedules, including those caused by two Falcon 9 failures in 2015 and 2016, significantly delayed the launch.

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

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.

Today's launch also included a rocket recovery attempt for the Falcon 9's first-stage booster.

Vandenberg's next Falcon 9 rocket reportedly is targeting September 30, with another 10 Iridium Next communication satellites ready to head to space.

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