The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket takes off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, taking 10 Iridium NEXT satellites into space. (SpaceX via YouTube)
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket today launched the eighth and final set of next-generation Iridium satellites, completing a two-year launch campaign.
The rocket landed at night at California's Vandenberg Air Force Base at 7:31 am PST after a smooth countdown. Iridium's CEO, Matt Desch, counted the final seconds.
A few minutes after takeoff, the first flight overview was separated and made a touchdown at sea on a drone landing ship called "Just read the instructions", hundreds of miles from the aircraft. 39, Pacific Ocean.
The launcher was launched for the first time last September to send the Telstar 18 Vantage satellite in space. During this mission, he went on the other SpaceX drone, based in Florida. It has been refurbished for today's launch and is now eligible for a third round.
SpaceX is experimenting with techniques to recover the nose cone of the Falcon 9 and save millions of dollars in manufacturing costs, but no attempt at recovery has been attempted today.
As the reminder of the Falcon 9 returned to Earth, the second stage and its payload went into orbit. Approximately one hour after launch, 10 Iridium NEXT satellites were deployed one by one at their orbital positions.
The Iridium NEXT constellation, worth $ 3 billion, has been described as a "technological upgrade" in the history of space. Since January 2018, SpaceX has placed satellites in low Earth orbit to replace older spacecraft and pave the way for advanced services.
Iridium Certis, for example, will enable new types of broadband applications such as drone control and management. Iridium's Aireon system will provide global monitoring and tracking of aircraft in real time.
Over the last two years, SpaceX has orbited 75 Iridium NEXT satellites, including 66 operational satellites for the telecom constellation and nine spares in orbit.
Commentator for the launch of SpaceX, John Insprucker, hailed the end of the launch campaign as it closed the webcast of today, watched by tens of thousands of people on YouTube. "This is not only 10 for 10 today, but 75 for 75," he said. "It's a good deal for Iridium and Falcon 9."
A video of SpaceX's Pacific UAV ship "Just Read the Instructions" shows the Falcon 9's first-stage accelerator sitting in the center of the target after touchdown. (SpaceX via YouTube)