PR Newswire - Iridium Completes Seventh Successful Iridium® NEXT Launch

Jan Cross
July 27, 2018

Elon Musk's rocket company is scheduled to launch a batch of 10 satellites for sat-phone company Iridium from Vandenburg Air Force Base before sunrise.

The launch also included an attempt to catch the Falcon 9's nose cone, or payload fairing, with a giant net stretched across a boat called Mr. Steven.

Launching in the early-morning hours of July 22, 2018, SpaceX's Block 5 Falcon 9 sent the Telstar 19 VANTAGE satellite into space. A group of satellites, Iridium NEXT to replace on-orbit satellites of the previous generation. These risks and uncertainties include, but are not limited to, uncertainties regarding potential delays in the Iridium NEXT deployment, the development and functionality of Iridium NEXT and related services, and the company's ability to maintain the health, capacity and content of its satellite constellation, as well as general industry and economic conditions, and competitive, legal, governmental and technological factors. This was the seventh of eight Iridium launches contracted out to SpaceX. The Iridium network is comprised of six polar orbiting planes, each containing 11 crosslinked satellites for a total of 66 in the operational constellation.

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"Despite challenging weather conditions, Falcon 9 first stage booster landed on Just Read the Instructions", SpaceX tweeted.

With that in mind, and with a fob obscuring the rocket until being launched, the launch went smoothly. Though SpaceX's rocket reusability has become routine, Wednesday's weather conditions made the feat more hard. Meanwhile, the Falcon 9's first stage continued into orbit under the power of a single Merlin engine. Launch and Early Operations (LEOP) and In Orbit Tests are performed by Thales Alenia Space in coordination with Iridium, from Iridium's Satellite Network Operation Center (SNOC) in Leesburg, Virginia. Once deployed, there will be a total of 65 Iridium NEXT satellites in space.

"They did see the payload fairing coming down, but they were not able to catch it in the net", Insprucker said during the broadcast about 50 minutes after liftoff. It continued on a parabolic trajectory, performing a series of burns along the way, to land on the drone ship "Of Course I Still Love You", downrange in the Atlantic Ocean.

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