Stunning photos of SpaceX's rocket prepping for today's launch

On Sunday at 1:42 pm ET, SpaceX is scheduled to launch one of its Falcon 9 rockets out of Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Click here to watch it live.

Tucked away inside the cone of the rocket’s head is precious cargo: the Jason-3 satellite, which is designed to measure ocean height across the globe and track sea level rise.

Here you can see the cone on the left as SpaceX rolled its rocket from the hangar toward the launch pad late last week:

The two-stage Falcon 9 rocket stands 224 feet tall — about 14 stories — with a reusable first stage, which SpaceX plans to land on a drone ship located off shore in the Pacific, 186 miles south of the launch site, shortly after the launch on Sunday.

Take note of the human on the lower right in the image below for a sense of how big this rocket really is:

To help guide the first stage toward its landing point, SpaceX engineers use grid fins located near the top of the reusable rocket.

During ascent, the grid fins stay tucked parallel to the side of the rocket, as shown below. It’s only after the rocket starts to fall back to Earth that the fins fold outward:

As you can see here, SpaceX has already attached its rocket to the launch tower — all of that scaffolding beneath the rocket is the launch tower:

After rolling it toward the launch pad, all that’s left for SpaceX engineers to do is orient the massive machine upright in preparation for fuelling and launch.

The launch is scheduled to take place during a 30-second window starting at 1:42 pm ET on Sunday.

SpaceX told Business Insider that the launch and landing attempt will be broadcast live, so don’t miss out! You can watch all of the action unfold here.

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