Falcon rocket with satellite for Taiwan launches from Vandenberg

This mission marks the 12th for SpaceX this year, and it comes after a hard 2016, during which one of the company's Falcons exploded on a launch pad before a routine test. The launch was delayed several times, though, and SpaceX ultimately phased out its lighter rockets.

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. 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. The 42-minute launch window opens at 2:51pm ET.

The satellite was constructed by the Taiwan National Space Organization.

Its main instrument is a sensor that produces high-resolution black-and-white and colour images.

In another Facebook post before the launch, Tsai said FormoSat-5 was carrying Taiwanese technology as well as Taiwanese dream. After the first stage sends the satellite on its way to low Earth orbit, the booster will attempt a landing on a drone ship in the Pacific Ocean.

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. ULA officials said the mission is aiming for September 14 from Space Launch Complex-3, also on South Base.

  • Rogelio Becker