SpaceX Rocket Carries Fifth Set of Iridium Satellites From Vandenberg AFB

The Falcon 9 blasted off at 10:13 a.m. EDT.

This attempt will come on Friday morning, when SpaceX is scheduled to launch 10 communications satellites for Iridium from Vandenberg Air Force Base on a used Falcon 9 booster. The booster has flown once before on an October 2017 mission, and SpaceX will reportedly discard some of its older boosters as it gears up to debut an upgraded version of the Falcon 9, called Block 5.

On a side note, in its efforts to reduce, reuse, and recycle its rockets (and save a whole bunch of Earth dollars) SpaceX is hoping to catch some part of payload fairing from the Falcon 9 on its way back to the planet.

The system proposed by privately held SpaceX will use 4,425 satellites, the FCC said, and will help improve communications in rural or hard-to-serve places where fibre-optic cables and cell towers do not reach.

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Elon Musk's company is making waves in the lucrative space industry.

Iridium confirmed the health of the satellites in a post-launch release, saying all 10 "have successfully communicated with the Iridium Satellite Network Operations Center and are preparing to begin testing".

For Friday's launch a ship, named Mr. Steven, will head out to sea and attempt to catch half of the fairing with a giant net. The payload fairing returns through Earth's atmosphere at a very high velocity, about eight times the speed of sound.

Lift off was scheduled at 7:08 a.m.

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By the time I finished the simulation, which took about 15 minutes, I was impressed by the crisp quality of the digital graphics, even when I moved up close to inspect the spacecraft.

In the last launch from Vandenberg, SpaceX on February 22 sent into orbit a Hisdesat PAZ satellite for Spain aboard a Falcon 9. SpaceX made it clear that it will do experimental maneuver on the third stage, but it doesn't have any plans to recover it as it is replacing the older generation of rockets with newer ones.

A SpaceX engineer narrating Friday's launch broadcast told viewers the company was required by NOAA to cut the live feed early. Musk said the fairing landed in the water "a few hundred meters" away from Mr. Steven.

SpaceX said no such restrictions will be imposed on its next launch, an April 2 cargo mission to the International Space Station.

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