Published: Mon, June 26, 2017
Science | By Cecil Little

SpaceX set to launch satellites from California air base

Elon Musk's SpaceX took a scheduling delay and turned it into a historic opportunity: as the result of postponing the launch of a Bulgarian satellite from Monday to Friday of last week, SpaceX had two Falcon 9 rocket launches within 48 hours of each other.

Little by little, SpaceX manages to break new ground for itself with each successive launch.

On Friday, 23 June a Falcon 9 using a refurbished first stage launched from Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. But no matter, the first stage booster hit the mark on Just Read the Instructions all the same.

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Redesigned, larger grid fins, mounted near the top of the 14-story-tall first stage, helped guide the returning booster to a precision touchdown despite strong winds, marking the 13th time a SpaceX rocket has returned intact to Earth.

The first set of Iridium satellites successfully arrived in space thanks to a different Falcon rocket that blasted off in January from Vandenberg.

The aluminum fins suffered wear and tear during the reentries, which Musk said will no longer be an issue with the titanium ones. It was carrying a communications satellite for Bulgaria into orbit.

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Two or three of those flights will be for Iridium, which has purchased a total of eight Falcon rocket rides to deliver a constellation of 75 next-generation satellites into orbit by mid-2018 - 66 operational satellites and nine in-orbit spares, according to Iridium.

That could mean that everything is even more likely to go well, or it could mean more opportunity for a screw up. That booster then landed on a floating droneship in the Atlantic Ocean.

Iridium Next has many goals. "Our operations team is eagerly awaiting this new batch of satellites and is ready to begin the testing and validation process".

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By 2:37 p.m. Pacific time, the company reported that all 10 satellites had been successfully deployed, at a release rate of one every 100 seconds.

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