Published: Tue, October 10, 2017
Science | By Cecil Little

Falcon 9 First Stage Lands on Barge After Launch of Communication Satellites

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket sent a bright orb of light streaking through the morning sky over the Central Coast prior to sunrise Monday as part of an ongoing mission the company describes as "one of the largest tech upgrades in history".

Once the satellites are launched, SpaceX will attempt a return landing of the rocket's reusable first stage booster at its "Just Read The Instructions" landing pad (autonomous spaceport drone ship) floating in the Pacific.

The launch is for client Iridium, and will put a third set of 10 satellites in orbit for the communications company.

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Cheers and applause broke out in the SpaceX control room as the launch was streamed live online.

The Iridium Next constellation will eventually consist of 66 primary satellites and nine on-orbit backup satellites.

The rocket will deliver 10 satellites to low-Earth orbit for communications company Iridium.

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Later, on Wednesday, SpaceX is scheduled to undertake another launch from Kennedy Space Center at 4:30 PM ET (4:30 AM Thursday).

It is worth noting that this is the third of eight planned launches of satellites of the Iridium NEXT project.

"Each successful launch brings us one step closer to both a technological and financial transformation", said Iridium CEO, Matt Desch.

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The Iridium NEXT system and satellites have been designed and managed by Thales Alenia Space, serving as prime contractor for the program. SpaceX has already launched rockets that have returned to Earth multiple times, thereby demonstrating their reusability. Every attempt to land a Falcon 9 this year has been a success. That mission is aimed at putting the SES-11/EchoStar-105 satellite into geostationary orbit to provide satellite TV and data services.

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