Watch rivals SpaceX and Arianespace launch rockets to orbit within minutes of each other

A SpaceX Falcon 9 (l) and an Ariane 5 (r) shortly after ignition.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 (l) and an Ariane 5 (r) shortly after ignition.
Image: SpaceX/ESA
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It’s time for some rocket launches.

Two in 15 minutes, to be specific. Today (July 25), Arianespace, the European rocketmaker, plans to fly four satellites into space from its launch site in French Guyana. Minutes later, SpaceX, Elon Musk’s space company, will launch eight satellites from Vandenberg Air Force base in California.

Watch ’em fly

The Arianespace launch is scheduled for 7:25am ET, while SpaceX is expected at 7:39am ET. Rockets are finicky machines and liable to delay, but if all goes to plan, you’ll be able to see two trips to space in 15 minutes.

Here’s the Arianespace video feed, expected to be live as of 7:00am ET. For the 99th flight of its Ariane 5 rocket, it’s launching four Galileo satellites. These are part of Europe’s space guidance and synchronization system, akin to the US global positioning system.

Here’s the SpaceX video feed, which is expected to go live around 7:24am ET. Today, SpaceX is launching 10 satellites for Iridium, which is replacing its entire stock of communications satellites with new spacecraft. You’ll also see SpaceX attempt to land its Falcon 9 booster rocket on a drone-ship in the Pacific about seven minutes after launch.

For a little extra fun, Iridium has made a Spotify playlist to synchronize with the launch for a truly bespoke flight viewing.

Big competitors

Today’s launchers are among the biggest players in space technology. Arianespace is a European conglomerate whose largest financier is France, which is one reason it launches from French Guyana, along with proximity to the equator and the ocean. Last year, the South American launch site was temporarily shut down by protestors seeking political leverage.

But the organization’s biggest threat is SpaceX, the start-up that’s disrupted the global space transportation industry with its low-cost, increasingly reusable rockets. After it flew its first heavy-lift rocket, the enormous Falcon Heavy, earlier this year, European space officials expressed admiration—but it’s not clear if the new version of the Ariane now under development will be able to compete with Musk’s company or his rival Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, which will debut its own competing rocket in 2020.

The pressure is on in the rocket business, and Arianespace’s chairman has a message for Musk: ”Europe will be there.”