SpaceX launches 12th Falcon 9 rocket this year

Posted August 26, 2017

SpaceX has successfully landed the first stage of a Falcon 9 rocket on a drone ship in the Pacific Ocean during the launch of an Earth-observation satellite for Taiwan.

The two-stage Falcon 9 lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 2:51 p.m. EDT (1851 GMT; 11:51 a.m. local time), hauling the Formosat-5 spacecraft into the heavens.

"This is the 15th successful landing of a Falcon 9", Lyons said on the live webcast, as cheers erupted at SpaceX mission control in Hawthorne, California.

SpaceX later discontinued the Falcon 1, moving Formosat-5 to a larger Falcon 9 vehicle. If SpaceX keeps up its momentum, it could launch 20 total rockets by the year's end. The satellite also carries a secondary Advanced Ionospheric Probe instrument built by Taiwan's National Central University. The booster landing activity is the part of SpaceX program to reuse the rockets which can launch multiple missions so that spaceflight cost can be reduced.

Moments later, Formosat 5 flew free from the Falcon 9's upper stage. 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. The historic launch marked the 12th one for SpaceX so far - the most number of launches for the Elon Musk-owned company and the most rockets fired off by any other space company or country in the world thus far.

Speaking to the press after FormoSat-5's launch, Chen said the experience with the mini-satellite would serve as a foundation for the development of FormoSat-7.

Next up for SpaceX's bi-coastal launch team is another Falcon 9 flight scheduled to blast off September 7 from pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The launch window begins Thursday, August 24, at 11:51 a.m. PST and lasts for approximately 40 minutes, allowing for flexibility in the event of a simple scrub or abort.