SpaceX launches 10 satellites from California air base


On board the 23-foot-tall rocket were the next batch of 10 Iridium Next satellites to build a second-generation constellation for the global communication system.

Friday's launch successfully sent a Bulgarian communications satellite into orbit on a used Falcon 9 rocket.

On a company webcast, loud cheers could be heard when the first-stage rocket landed on the drone ship despite fears that low visibility would make the maneuver too hard.

The new grid fins, made of titanium instead of aluminum, can withstand the heat of atmospheric re-entry without shielding, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk wrote on Twitter. The new fins are a bit heavier, but are designed for multiple re-uses as SpaceX seeks to more toward rapid reuse of its first stage booster. "Can be used indefinitely with no touchups", he said. "Launch at 1:25 delivering 10 satellites for Iridium".

This is a fairly conventional launch for SpaceX except for one novelty, revealed by SpaceX founder Elon Musk on Saturday night. Mission control for both flights was at the company's Hawthorne, Calif., headquarters.

The Sunday launch also represented SpaceX's fastest turnaround so far from a previous launch.

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However, that timetable is two years behind what SpaceX agreed upon with Iridium in 2010.

"We are once again proud to support another successful launch of Iridium NEXT", Hough said after Sunday's launch.

Though Iridium's contract with SpaceX now specifies that new first-stages will be used to launch the satellites, company Chief Executive Matt Desch said earlier this week he would be "open" to using a previously flown booster in the future.

In total, SpaceX has more than 70 launches, worth more than $10 billion, on its manifest, said company spokesman John Taylor.

The rocket carrying the BulgariaSat-1 satellite into orbit took off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida shortly after noon.

SpaceX's next launch is targeted for mid-July for Intelsat.