Ready for an early morning spectacle? SpaceX rocket launch still on for Friday | The Tribune
13 January, 2019, 22:11
"Iridium is the only satellite communications network that spans the entire globe and Iridium NEXT is one of the largest "tech upgrades" in space history", SpaceX said in a statement.
Over the past two years, SpaceX has put 75 Iridium NEXT satellites into orbit, including 66 operational spacecraft for the telecommunications constellation and nine on-orbit spares.
According to a tweet from Iridium CEO Matt Desch on Thursday, the Falcon 9 rocket was rolling out to the launch pad Thursday morning. The McLean, Virginia-based company's $3 billion Iridium NEXT project replaces its entire original fleet.
This is an "instantaneous" launch window.
SpaceX still plans to launch its Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base at 7:31 a.m. on Friday, as long as the weather holds.
While the Falcon mission secured the first launch of 2019 from Vandenberg, the second is set to be a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket and its top-secret cargo for the National Reconnaissance Office. 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.
After a series of quick milestones in the minutes following the launch, the rocket's second stage shut off its engines and coasted high above the Earth for 40 minutes.
SpaceX launched its first mission of 2019, fulfilling its Iridium contract, while the Falcon 9 due to loft the company's Crew Dragon demo mission remained resolutely attached to Florida. Deployment of the satellites is scheduled to be completed a little over an hour after liftoff.
The first Iridium satellites were launched in the 1990s to offer voice, data, fax and paging services to customers with Iridium handheld telephones and pagers.