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SpaceX completed its seventh launch of the year on Wednesday, successfully sending satellites to orbit after lifting off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California
The company used a Falcon 9 rocket to launch three satellites built by Maxar Technologies' subsidiary MDA in a mission called "RADARSAT Constellation." The Falcon 9 rocket's lower "booster" stage previously launched the company's "Demo-1" mission in March of this year before it landed for reuse.
Less than eight minutes after liftoff, SpaceX landed the large "booster" stage of the Falcon 9 rocket at the company's pad. The booster is the largest portion of the rocket with most of its engines, supplying the power needed to escape Earth's atmosphere. Known as Landing Zone 4 ("LZ-4"), the concrete landing pad is adjacent to SpaceX's launchpad at Vandenberg. The landing itself was largely obscured by thick fog in the area, although the rocket's return was visible.
The three surveillance spacecraft are known as "synthetic aperture radar" satellites and are built for Canada, to image the country and Arctic multiple times a day. Synthetic aperture radar is a technology that allows imaging during any time, regardless of daylight or cloud cover. The three satellites "will help create precise sea ice maps of Canada's oceans and the Great Lakes to facilitate navigation and commercial maritime transportation," SpaceX said in a press release.
Maxar shared an image of the Falcon 9 rocket ready on the launchpad on Tuesday, with a photo from Maxar satellites already in orbit.
The trio of satellites cost Canada about $900 million to build, likely making this the second most valuable payload SpaceX has launched. The top secret Zuma satellite that SpaceX launched in January 2018 was reportedly worth about $3.5 billion.