SpaceX launches 10 satellites into orbit on Falcon 9 rocket

SpaceX launches 10 satellites into orbit on Falcon 9 rocket

Iridium confirmed the health of the satellites in a post-launch release, saying all 10 "have successfully communicated with the Iridium Satellite Network Operations Center and are preparing to begin testing".

American aerospace company SpaceX on Friday successfully launched a Falcon 9 rocket carrying 10 telecommunications satellites from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in Southern California. Six of the satellites will serve as on-orbit spares.

"This is the first approval of a USA -licensed satellite constellation to provide broadband services using a new generation of low-Earth orbit satellite technologies", the Federal Communications Commission said in a statement.

A hiccup in Friday's launch happened when SpaceX attempted to land the rocket's $6 million nose cone onto a giant net aboard a boat in the middle of the ocean.

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The Iridium project, though less flamboyant, will replace the world's largest commercial satellite network of low-Earth orbit satellites in one of the largest "tech upgrades" in history, Iridium has said.

Today's launch marks the fifth set of 10 satellites the firm has delivered to orbit, for what will eventually be a global satellite constellation of 75 craft.

Today's planned launch is the first of two planned by SpaceX in the next four days.

What makes this launch extra special is that it was carried out by a used Falcon 9 rocket.

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Friday's launch brings to 50 the number of Iridium Next satellites in orbit. The mission lasted approximately 75 minutes.

Iridium, based in McLean, Virginia, provides mobile voice and data communications. "The process of replacing the satellites one-by-one in a constellation of this size and scale has never been completed before".

It is, however, expected to try to recover the rocket's "fairing, " or nosecone, using a large ship dubbed Mr. Steven, which is outfitted with a large netting.

Friday's launch used the same first-stage rocket from Iridium's similar mission in October.

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SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said on Twitter the fairing "impacted water at high speed", without confirming explicitly if the landing was successful or not. This spectacular launch represents the sixth launch of 2018, including the Falcon Heavy launch in February as well as the fifth Falcon 9 launch. Musk said helicopter drop tests would be conducted over the next few weeks to solve the issue.

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