SpaceX Launches Falcon 9 From Vandenberg Air Force Base

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SpaceX on Wednesday launched a trio of satellites for the Canadian government.

The company’s Falcon 9 lifted off from a foggy Vandenberg Air Force base in California at 10:17 am ET.

The first-stage booster, which gives SpaceX’s rocket the initial thrust at liftoff, returned to Vandenberg and made a pinpoint landing on a ground pad about 10 minutes after liftoff.

SpaceX is the only rocket company that safely lands boosters after launching orbital missions. Its ability to recover boosters is a key selling point, since the company says reusable hardware helps reduce launch costs.

The customer for SpaceX’s mission was the Canadian Space Agency: Strapped to the top of the rocker were three satellites for a constellation called RADARSAT that the country uses for taking images of Earth.

Data pulled from the satellites will be used for a variety of information, including monitoring climate change, ice melt and maritime surveillance to help the country’s defense force, according to the agency’s website. Images taken by the satellites will also help emergency services respond to severe weather situations, such as flooding and earthquakes.

The booster used for Wednesday’s launch was the same one used during a landmark test mission in March of SpaceX’s new Crew Deragon spacecraft, the company said. Crew Dragon, built to carry humans, is slated to begin flying NASA astronauts (a possibly tourists) to and from the International Space Station in the near future. But its not clear how long those plans have been delayed after one of the spacecrafts suffered an explosive mishap during a ground test in April.

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