SpaceX has already smashed record after record this year with a more packed launch schedule than it has ever attempted — and so far, the company has had a perfect record. That feat stands after Thursday, as SpaceX pulled off its ninth Falcon 9 rocket launch and landing this year, sending a Taiwanese satellite into orbit and landing the first-stage booster on a droneship in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The company really does end the summer on its own terms.
At 2:51 p.m. Eastern Time, SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 carrying the FORMOSAT-5 satellite from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The satellite was deployed 11 minutes after launch, with the landing spectacle occurring just a minute prior, when the first stage booster made its smooth descent onto the company’s Just Read the Instructions droneship — the 15th successful recovery of a Falcon 9 first-stage booster.
SpaceX was expected to take a strong step forward this year, but few predicted the company could pull off its busiest year with zero accidents or failures by the end of August. It’s an incredible boost in confidence for a company heading into a very nerve-wracking inaugural launch for its Falcon Heavy rocket. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has explicitly mentioned doubts that the Falcon Heavy would make it very far, with a crash the likeliest outcome for the new rocket.