SpaceX aces a rocket doubleheader

SpaceX Falcon 9 ascent
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket blasts its way into orbit. (SpaceX via YouTube)

Two days after launching a Falcon 9 rocket from Florida and landing it again, SpaceX accomplished the same feat in California, bringing 10 satellites to low Earth orbit for Iridium’s next-generation communications network.

Liftoff came at 1:25 p.m. PT from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, and the booster landing on a drone ship in the Pacific Ocean took place a little less than eight minutes later. A little more than an hour after that, SpaceX confirmed that all 10 satellites were successfully deployed.

This was the second launch in SpaceX’s campaign to put 75 Iridium NEXT spacecraft into a constellation that’s designed to provide global high-speed satellite data transmission as well as aircraft tracking and surveillance.

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

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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