SpaceX launches 10 satellites for Iridium mobile network
Los Angeles: SpaceX on Monday launched its Falcon 9 rocket, carrying 10 satellites to bolster the global data communications network for Virginia-based company Iridium.
The white rocket blasted off before sunrise from the Vandenberg Air Force base in California at 5.37am local time.
About seven minutes after launch, the tall portion of the Falcon 9, known as the first stage, returned to Earth for an upright landing.
The rocket fired its engines and made a controlled landing on a floating platform in the Pacific Ocean.
“A successful landing of the first stage,” a SpaceX commentator said on the company’s live webcast, as applause erupted at SpaceX mission control in Hawthorne, California.
Grainy video showed the rocket standing upright in the predawn darkness on the droneship, named “Just Read the Instructions”.
The landing was the latest in SpaceX’s ongoing effort to re-use expensive rocket parts instead of jettisoning them into the ocean after launch.
In total, SpaceX, which is headed by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, is launching a series of 75 satellites for Iridium’s satellite constellation, Iridium NEXT, by 2018.
Monday’s launch was the third of eight planned for Iridium, as part of a $3 billion project to upgrade the company’s global communications network.