This morning, SpaceX is set to launch its sixth Falcon 9 mission of 2019 out of southern California, sending three identical Canadian satellites into orbit. After takeoff, SpaceX will attempt to land its rocket on a landing pad next to the vehicle’s launch site. If successful, it will be the second time SpaceX has landed its vehicle on the California coast.
The trio of satellites going up on today’s flight are part of the RADARSAT Constellation developed by the Canadian Space Agency. The spacecraft are meant to operate nearly 400 miles up, where they will observe Canada’s land and waters, as well as the Arctic. The goal is to gather data on sea ice in nearby oceans and the Great Lakes, as well as the changing ecosystems within Canada. Such information will be useful for many groups, including mariners who navigate in Arctic waters and scientists who want to understand the impact of climate change in the region. Satellite imagery from RADARSAT could also help with disaster relief.
SpaceX is using one of its used Falcon 9 rockets for the mission, a vehicle that previously flew the company’s Crew Dragon capsule on its very first flight to the International Space Station back in March. After that launch, the Falcon 9 landed on one of SpaceX’s drone ships off the coast of Florida in the Atlantic, but now it’s ready to make a ground landing on the opposite coast. The first and only time that SpaceX has landed a Falcon 9 rocket on California land was in October of 2018. Nearly all of the company’s attempts to land on solid ground have been successful, save for one that missed its pad in Florida and landed in the ocean instead.
Today’s flight is scheduled for takeoff at 10:17AM ET / 7:17AM PT out of Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. SpaceX has a short 13-minute launch window, so the Falcon 9 rocket can conceivably launch up until 10:30AM ET. SpaceX’s coverage of the launch will begin about 15 minutes before liftoff, so come back then to see if SpaceX can stick another ground landing.