Liftoff! Used SpaceX Rocket Launches 10 Iridium Satellites Into Orbit

The Space Exploration Technologies rocket roared away at 7:13 a.m. into clear skies above Space Launch Complex-4 on South Base. Pacific Time from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

The Falcon 9's first stage was previously launched on an Iridium mission last October and was recovered. Iridium confirmed shortly after launch that its Network Operations Center (NOC) made contact with all 10 satellites, which are now preparing to begin testing. The GPS-guided parafoils meant to slow it down grew tangled as it descended back toward earth, causing the cone to crash into the water at a high rate of speed, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said in a tweet.

Iridium, which bills itself as the only mobile voice and data satellite communications network that spans the entire globe, plans to send a total of 75 NEXT satellites into orbit as part of the current series of Falcon 9 launches from VAFB.

By using "Mr. Steven", a large navigable platform ship with extended "arms" and a net strung between them, SpaceX was trying to "catch" one of the two payload fairings that enclose the satellite at the top of the rocket.

SpaceX will not, however, attempt to land the booster after Friday's launch.

The total cost of one of its Falcon 9 launches is estimated to reach £44 million ($61m), while each of its larger Falcon Heavy flights costs £65 million ($90m).

The value of these fairings is about six million USA dollars, and recovering and reusing them would save money for SpaceX.

SpaceX's previous attempt to catch a Falcon 9 fairing just missed earlier this year.

The $3-billion U.S. project is scheduled for completion this year, with a total of 75 new satellites in orbit.

Starting an hour after launch, the satellites were released one by one approximately every 100 seconds, taking about 15 minutes to successfully complete delivery.

Musk, who is also the co-founder and chief executive of electric automaker Tesla Inc., said in 2015 that SpaceX planned to launch a satellite-internet business that would help fund a future city on Mars.

Thanks to SpaceX's efforts to reuse hardware, its Falcon 9 rocket is drastically cheaper than competing rockets - and the customers keep lining up.

The Dragon spacecraft are used as the final stage of SpaceX missions to resupply the International Space Station.

  • Joey Payne