Satellites in orbit after successful takeoff

Greg Lawrence
April 2, 2018

A used SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched 10 new communications satellites into orbit from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base today (March 30) in a morning liftoff that also marked an anniversary for reusable rockets. But similar to the last attempt made in February when the drone-ship with a catcher's mitt named Mr. Steven was just few hundred meters away from it when it splashed into the water. This is a protective metal shield used to cover the cargo as the rocket is en route to space and blasts through the atmosphere.

SpaceX did not seek to recover the booster after the launch, but did deploy a boat nicknamed "Mr. Steven" to attempt to catch one of the payload fairing halves as they fell toward the Pacific Ocean. SpaceX did not attempt to recover the rocket again for reuse.

The satellites are owned by Virginia-based Iridium Communications, which is replacing its entire fleet.

Speaking about the Iridium Next, the 10 relay satellites were stationed at the altitude of 388 miles above the Earth surface. Iridium confirmed shortly before noon that all 10 satellites had reached orbit and transmitted signals. With Friday's launch, there were 50 newer-style Iridium satellites in space. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will carry 10 satellites into orbit. He further added that the target was anticipated, however, the milestone was achieved much before than predicted. The 10 satellites are the fifth set SpaceX is launching for Iridium of a planned network of 75 satellites.

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The Iridium-5 NEXT Mission launched at 7:13 a.m.

SpaceX was chosen to launch a constellation of 75 satellites in eight missions. Rest 9 satellites are sanctioned as spares for when if any satellites go impaired or malfunctions.

The completed satellite system will provide air traffic control organizations and aircraft operators real-time, global visibility of ADS-B equipped aircraft, in addition to providing telecommunications services to its customers around the world. The mobile voice and data communications company's final launches of this $3 billion satellite replacement project are expected to happen by the end of 2018. The Iridium network is comprised of six polar orbiting planes, each containing 11 operational, crosslinked satellites, for a total of 66 in the active constellation.

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