Successful SpaceX launch delivers satellites into orbit

Cesar Mills
June 26, 2017

The booster previously launched the first wave of "Iridium NEXT" satellites last January from Vandenberg AFB, and coincidentally, another Falcon 9 is now getting ready to launch the second wave of 10 "Iridium NEXT" satellites from Vandenberg tomorrow, June 25, at 1:25 pm PDT.

SpaceX has recovered rockets multiple times on the barge, known as a drone ship, and on land back at Cape Canaveral.

Today's mission will mark the second launch for SpaceX in less than 48 hours-a remarkably fast turnaround.

Though Iridium's contract with SpaceX now specifies that new first-stages will be used to launch the satellites, company Chief Executive Matt Desch said earlier this week he would be "open" to using a previously flown booster in the future.

The launch was the start of a busy weekend for SpaceX.

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Looking ahead, the company is aiming to launch several more commercial satellites this summer, both from Florida and Vandenberg. The landing was the first to use larger grid fins on the first stage to guide the rocket to the landing site.

SpaceX successfully launched and landed a used rocket on Friday afternoon. Elon Musk led SpaceX is also planning to launch for the first time the Falcon Heavy, an extensively boosted derivative rocket.

He added: "Good chance rocket booster doesn't make it back". It's unclear if SpaceX plans to fly that booster for a third time.

The network of satellites, known as Iridium Next, is meant to provide mobile communications capabilities on land, at sea and in the air.

As mentioned, SpaceX's last launch happened just a couple of days ago, on Friday, with its BulgariaSat-1 mission. Six more launches are scheduled over the next 12 months to place the remaining Iridium Next satellites into orbit. The mission went off without a hitch, and SpaceX even recaptured the used first-stage booster. Companies like Iridium are reliant on SpaceX to complete its constellation of 75 satellites for global mobile phone data coverage, and it will be a reminder to startups and incumbents alike that the space industry is about to become a lot more affordable. That will carry the second of 10 installments for Iridium's massive communications-satellite refresh.

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