SpaceX Launches Two Missions in Two Days


The satellites launched over the weekend belong to the communications company Iridium.

SpaceX has completed two back-to-back successful missions this weekend, the company's quickest launch turnaround yet, the media reported. After lifting 10 Iridium NEXT satellites to low Earth orbit, the Falcon 9's first stage will attempt to return to a droneship with a new, more durable set of grid fins, which help to stabilize the rocket as it descends back to Earth. Together with "Of Course I Still Love You" for Cape Canaveral launches, the company's drone ships - landing platforms in the ocean - take inspiration from sci-fi author Iain M. Banks.

The latest mission was to deliver a group of satellites into orbit for a company called Iridium, CNN reported.

The Falcon 9 rocket blasted off through low-lying fog at 1:25 p.m. PDT from Vandenberg Air Force Base northwest of Los Angeles.

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. The 10 Iridium NEXT satellites then were deployed one at a time over 15 minutes or so from a dispenser atop the second stage.

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The new constellation should be ready to replace Iridium's existing network next year, representing one of the biggest satellite tech upgrades in history.

SpaceX launched the first 10 Iridium NEXT satellites from Vandenberg on January 14, putting the spacecraft into a near-polar orbit tilted 86.4 degrees to the equator, one of six orbital planes used by the company to create its network.

Developing rockets that can be reused for multiple flights could reduce the cost of space travel by around 30 per cent, Gwynne Shotwell, president of SpaceX, told Wired. Some of the new satellites will be so-called on-orbit spares, or older satellites that remain in orbit on standby for use if the newer ones malfunction.

Even more impressive is the fact that SpaceX accomplished this second mission under what CEO Elon Musk described as extreme weather. The new satellites will not create visible flashes of reflected sunlight as they passed overhead.