Just a week after its last launch, SpaceX is back at it. The 11th mission it’s attempting this year is to send an Earth-observation satellite, lovingly named FORMOSAT-5, into orbit for Taiwan’s space agency. With a successful launch today, SpaceX as a company will tie the entire nation-state of Russia for most launches this year. No, the irony of a private company beating a formerly communist nation at the new space race is not lost on anyone.
As always, just launching a satellite into orbit isn’t enough for SpaceX. It will be trying to land the first stage booster back on a remotely-piloted drone ship in the Pacific ocean afterwards. SpaceX’s rocket landings have become much more successful in recent months; despite the fireball origins of the Falcon 9 landing program, it’s starting to look like a viable technique that will make space travel cheaper.
So far this year, SpaceX has pulled off eight landings, and a success today will bring that number to nine. Two of those boosters have been relaunched successfully already, and a third launch of a used rocket is planned for September.
FORMOSAT-5 is an Earth observation satellite that will sit in sun-synchronous orbit, watching natural disasters, conducting Earth environment monitoring, and helping Taiwan with national security.
As always, you can livestream the launch and subsequent landing attempt thanks to the wonders of modern technology. The launch is scheduled for takeoff any time between 2:51PM ET and 3:33PM ET. The livestream should begin about 15 minutes before takeoff, and you can watch it right here.