Vandenberg AFB satellite launch aboard SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket huge success

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

SpaceX's twelfth launch and ninth recovery of 2017 ready for a Thursday liftoff

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.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 successfully launched a long-delayed remote sensing satellite for the government of Taiwan Aug. 24, executing another first stage landing in the process.

In what is fast becoming a routine event this was the 15th successful landing out of 40 launches, and the 9th to land on a barge. SpaceX, during the launch webcast, declared the launch a success.

Given the size of Formosat-5 compared to Falcon 9, the satellite will be downright minuscule inside the vehicle's cavernous payload fairing.

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Formosat-5 was built by Taiwan's space agency, the National Space Organization, known by the acronym NSPO.

The nation's next satellite, Formosat-7, is being inspected by NSPO members, who are confident about its launch next year, Minister of Science and Technology Chen Liang-gee (陳良基) told a news conference in Taipei yesterday before toasting with champagne. The company also plans to launch another used booster in September.

The first stage on Thursday's launch, a newly-manufactured booster, will return to port in Southern California in a few days for inspections, refurbishment and potential reuse on a future mission.

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".

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An advanced ionospheric probe from the National Central University in Taiwan is also aboard Formosat 5.

The launch went off as planned from VAFB's Space Launch Complex-4 just after 11:51 a.m.

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

The Formosat-5 was initially scheduled to launch four years ago aboard a much smaller rocket at a cost of less than half of the estimated $62 million that it now costs for a commercial launch aboard a Falcon 9.

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