SpaceX launches final 10 satellites for Iridium

12 January, 2019, 21:22 | Author: Darnell Taylor
  • An early-morning rocket launch traces an arc of light across the horizon

SpaceX conducted its first launch of 2019 with the flight of the Iridium 8 mission from Vandenberg Air Force Base's Space Launch Complex 4E in California.

The SpaceX Falcon rocket is carrying the final Iridium mission for the year, sending the Iridium NEXT satellites 66-75 into orbit. Iridium CEO Matt Desch counted down the final seconds. The previously used first stage was recovered again with a bullseye landing on a "droneship" in the ocean while the upper stage continued on to orbit.

While the Falcon 9 booster returned to Earth, the second stage and its payload pressed on to orbit. Thanks to Falcon 9 Block 5's increasingly exceptional reusability, SpaceX does not have to outproduce other companies and national space programs to dramatically out-launch them, exemplifed by the fact that SpaceX alone was able to launch more orbital missions than the combined output of every company and country aside from China.

This is the eighth and last set of satellites that SpaceX has launched to replace the world's largest commercial communication satellite network.

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But the primary objective of the rocket launch involved completing the $3 billion Iridium Next constellation to provide voice and data communication anywhere on the globe.

Among new capabilities enabled by the fleet upgrade is Iridium Certus, described as a broadband solution for purposes ranging from life-safety services to command-and-control of unmanned aircraft systems and tracking.

SpaceX launch commentator John Insprucker hailed the end of the launch campaign as he closed off today's webcast, which was watched by tens of thousands on YouTube. "It's been a clean sweep for Iridium and Falcon 9". This will be the company's first landing attempt since a stage launched December 5 malfunctioned and "landed" in the Atlantic Ocean off Cape Canaveral.

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