VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE (CBSLA) – Hawthorne-based SpaceX successfully launched several communication and research satellites on a Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base near Lompoc Tuesday.
The rocket, which was carrying five communications satellites for Iridium and two research satellites for NASA, lifted off at 12:47 p.m. Pacific time.
While SpaceX often recovers the first-stage of its rockets so they can be reused in future missions, SpaceX did not attempt such a recovery this time.
The five communication satellites are part of Iridium’s $3 billion system that will ultimately include 75 satellites bolstering a worldwide voice and data communication network.
The research satellites are part of the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On, or GRACE-FO, mission. The project, a joint effort of NASA and the German Research Centre for Geosciences. It is an effort to observe the movement of water and other mass around the planet by precisely tracking the changing pull of gravity.
The GRACE-FO satellites were deployed first, at around 11 minutes after the launch. The Iridium satellites were also successfully deployed about one hour after the launch.
Earlier this month, Vandenberg Air Force Base was the launch site of the Mars-bound Atlas 5 rocket, which is carrying a robotic lander that will be used to probe the Red Planet’s core. It was the first ever interplanetary launch from the West Coast.
On May 11, SpaceX launched an upgraded Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. Known as the Falcon 9 Block 5, the enhanced rocket will eventually be used to launch astronauts to the International Space Station. It is designed to refly its first stage at least 10 times.
For the past several years, SpaceX has been developing the use of recycled rockets in order to cut launch costs and speed up flights. SpaceX launched its first ever recycled rocket in March of 2017. In June of 2017, it launched and successfully recovered its first-ever recycled capsule.
Last December, it launched its first reused rocket and reused spacecraft in the same mission: using a recycled Dragon capsule and a recycled Falcon 9 rocket.
SpaceX has re-launched 11 first stage boosters to date, but none have flown more than twice. The Falcon 9 Block 5 is expected to change that.
On Sunday, meanwhile, SpaceX-founder Elon Musk posted a photo to Instagram of a newly-designed Crew Dragon capsule which would potentially be able to one day carry people to Mars.
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