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Falcon 9 Rocket On Track Toward Thursday Launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base

SpaceX booster to carry Earth-imaging satellite for Taiwan while also aiming to again land spent rocket stage on recovery barge

SpaceX conducted a static fire test of its Falcon 9 rocket Saturday in advance of a planned Thursday morning launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base.
SpaceX conducted a static fire test of its Falcon 9 rocket Saturday in advance of a planned Thursday morning launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base. (SpaceX photo)

A Falcon 9 rocket set to launch Thursday morning from Vandenberg Air Force Base will carry international cargo as Taiwan looks to boost its own space program.

Liftoff of the Space Exploration Technologies rocket from Space Launch Complex-4 on South Base is planned between 11:50 a.m. and 12:34 p.m.

“We are proud to provide a safe and secure launch location for our mission partners,” said Col. Gregory E. Wood, 30th Space Wing vice commander and launch safety authority.

“This mission is the practical demonstration of the professional spirit and teamwork found in the everyday operations of Team Vandenberg and SpaceX.”

On Saturday, SpaceX representatives announced on Twitter that the company had successfully completed the on-pad static fire test of the rocket’s first-stage motor — essentially all the key steps in the countdown except blastoff.

Riding aboard the Falcon rocket will be the 992-pound Formosat-5, the first spacecraft that Taiwan’s National Space Organization fully developed.

“Formosat-5 is the first satellite program in which the NSPO was fully responsible for as a system integrator,” the space agency said on its website.

Mission objectives include demonstrating Taiwan’s space technology on the remote sensing satellite and promoting advanced space science research domestically, NSPO said.

“In addition to indigenous payloads development, NSPO is also responsible for the development of the key spacecraft components, ground control systems and image processing systems.”

An Earth-observation craft, Formosat-5 will collect black-and-white images, able to see items as big as 2 meters, and color images, capturing objects as small as 4 meters, from its spot some 447 miles in the air.

A sibling satellite, Formosat-2, which originally was dubbed Rocsat-2, also launched from Vandenberg, blasting off in 2004 aboard a Taurus rocket.

Crews from Taiwan’s National Space Organization work on the Formosat-5 Earth-imaging satellite. Click to view larger
Crews from Taiwan’s National Space Organization work on the Formosat-5 Earth-imaging satellite. (National Space Organization photo)

That satellite was decommissioned last year, and as a follow-on program, Formosat-5 aims to continue to supply images to the users of the previous satellite’s data, NSPO said.

The satellite also carries as secondary payload a scientific instrument called Advanced Ionospheric Probe, which was developed by Taiwan’s National Central University.

The new satellite is designed to operate for five years.

In an unrelated mission, SpaceX again plans to attempt to land the booster’s first stage on a barge in the Pacific Ocean, a move it has completed after two previous Vandenberg launches.

Locals can view this launch from the Hawk’s Nest on Highway 1 south of Vandenberg’s main gate, with the area opening at 10:30 a.m. and closing at 11:40 a.m.

As a reminder, alcohol, smoking, weapons, open fires and barbecues are prohibited at the site, as is the use of drones within five miles of any active runway.

Popular off-base viewing spots for rocket launches include the peak of Harris Grade Road, the intersection of Moonglow and Stardust roads in Vandenberg Village and along West Ocean Avenue.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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