SpaceX rocket puts 10 Iridium satellites in orbit

Satellite deployment
A webcam shows the deployment of an Iridium NEXT telecommunications satellites from SpaceX’s Falcon 9 upper stage, with Earth in the background. (SpaceX via YouTube)

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket sent 10 more Iridium NEXT telecommunications satellites into space today from a fogged-in California pad, then executed a rough-and-tumble booster landing.

Today’s mission also featured an attempt to catch the rocket’s falling nose cone, using a boat equipped with a giant net. SpaceX said the effort was unsuccessful, in part because of the windy conditions at sea.

Liftoff from Vandenberg Air Force Base occurred on time at 4:39 a.m. PT, amid fog so thick that the two-stage rocket’s ascent could only be seen as a bright spot in the murk.

Minutes after launch, the Falcon 9’s second stage separated to continue the push to orbit, while the first stage maneuvered itself through a supersonic descent back down to a ship stationed hundreds of miles out in the Pacific Ocean.

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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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