SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launches, releases 10 Iridium satellites into orbit

March 30 (UPI) — SpaceX launched10 Iridium-5 Next satellites from its Falcon 9 rocket Friday at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

The Falcon 9 blasted off at 10:13 a.m. EDT. The main engine cutoff and stage separation occurred as planned. Eight minutes after the launch, the second stage engine cutoff was confirmed.

One hour after liftoff, the 10 satellites were deployed over 15 minutes in a low Earth obit. The 10 satellites are the fifth set SpaceX is launching for Iridium of a planned network of 75 satellites. The launches began in October 2017 and are scheduled to be complete in a few months. Six of the satellites will serve as on-orbit spares.

SpaceX didn’t attempt to recover Falcon 9’s first stage after launch as it has in previous flights, but planned to attempt to catch its fairing, which is cone at the top of the rocket, in a speed boat.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk posted on Twitter the fairing “impacted water at high speed. Air wake from fairing messing w parafoil steering. Doing helo drop tests in next few weeks to solve.”

The launch was originally scheduled for Thursday but was delayed because of an issue with one of the satellites, according to a Twitter post from the Iridium Communications CEO, Matt Desch.

The Iridium satellites, each weighing 1,896 pounds, will replace the world’s largest commercial satellite network of low-Earth orbit satellites. Iridium, which plans to have all of its satellites launched by mid-2018, has partnered with Thales Alenia Space to manufacture, assemble and test them.

The completed satellite system will provide air traffic control organizations and aircraft
operators real-time, global visibility of ADS-B equipped aircraft, in addition to providing telecommunications services to its customers around the world.

In the last launch from Vandenberg, SpaceX on Feb. 22 sent into orbit a Hisdesat PAZ satellite for Spain aboard a Falcon 9.

On Monday afternoon, SpaceX also plans to launch its 14th cargo supply mission to the International Space Station from Cape Canaveral in Florida. The Dragon spacecraft will carry 1.7 tons of pressurized cargo to the station, as well as 926kg of unpressurized cargo in its “trunk.”

On March 5, SpaceX launched a Hispasat 30W-6 spacecraft from a Falcon 9 at Cape Canaveral.