Hawthorne-based SpaceX successfully launched a Falcon 9 rocket Friday carrying 10 satellites for Iridium Communications from Vandenberg Air Force Base northwest of Los Angeles.
The Iridium-5 NEXT Mission launched at 7:13 a.m., and the satellites were successfully deployed about an hour later.
The satellites are part of an ultimate 75-satellite array being positioned for Iridium’s “next-generation” communications system. Friday’s mission was the fifth set of 10 satellites being launched for the project.
The 75-satellite, $3 billion project is scheduled for completion by the middle of the year. Three more launches are planned this year to complete Iridium’s global satellite constellation. Based in McLean, Virginia, Iridium provides mobile voice and data communications.
The Falcon 9 rocket used for Friday’s launch was previously used in October for an Iridium satellite mission. SpaceX did not attempt to recover the rocket after Friday’s launch.
The company did attempt — unsuccessfully — to recover the rocket’s $6 million “fairing,” or nosecone, using a large ship dubbed Mr. Steven, which is outfitted with a large netting that company founder Elon Musk compared to a catcher’s mitt.
According to Musk, the fairing’s parachute became twisted as the nosecone fell back to Earth, so it “impacted water at high speed.”
Musk said the company will conduct tests in the coming weeks using helicopter drops to try to solve issues with recovering the fairing. The company also failed to recover the nosecone during a mission in February, when the fairing missed the net by “a few hundred meters.”
SpaceX has been working to perfect the process of recovering rockets to reduce the cost of space missions.
Friday’s launch was the first of two planned by SpaceX in the next four days. The company is scheduled to launch a cargo mission to the International Space Station at 1:30 p.m. Monday from Cape Canaveral.
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