SpaceX ready to launch Iridium for seventh time, aims for double recovery

Pablo Tucker
July 28, 2018

Lifting off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, this was the seventh of eight launches planned for the Iridium NEXT constellation, replacing the company's existing 66 satellite network.

Iridium is also the only satellite communications network to cover the entire globe keeping track of objects participating in the internet of things (IoT). The satellite will use onboard propulsion to circularize its orbit some 22,300 miles (35,900 kilometers)-geostationary orbit-and move into the orbital slot at 63 degrees west to provide communications coverage between northern Canada and South America.

While weather during camera setup was absolutely spectacular, the predawn launch window meant that no sun was available to force the ever-present VAFB fog back over the ocean.

SpaceX also made its fourth attempt at a first in spaceflight history: Recover a used fairing, which encloses the payload aboard a rocket.

The launch on Wednesday is the second in four days.

Seven minutes before the countdown reached zero, the nine Merlin 1D engines at the base of the Falcon 9's first stage began conditioning themselves for launch.

"It's always great to experience another successful launch and be able to support the mission". European satellite manufacturer Thales Alenia Space is the prime contractor for the satellites, working with Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems to integrate the satellites in Gilbert, Arizona. The Iridium network is comprised of six polar orbiting planes, each containing 11 crosslinked satellites for a total of 66 in the operational constellation.

Yet another Falcon 9 rocket is due to be launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on august 4 to put the Merah Putih telecommunications satellite in orbit for Telkom Indonesia.

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