Space Exploration Technologies launched a rocket carrying 10 Iridium Communications satellites to orbit early Friday, its fifth in a series of eight launches contracted for the communications company as it builds its NEXT constellation network.
The Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base on California’s central coast at around 7:13 a.m. local time. SpaceX has signed on to deliver 75 Iridium satellites to orbit in total. SpaceX said on Twitter about an hour after launch that all 10 satellites had been deployed.
“Iridium NEXT will replace the world’s largest commercial satellite network of low-Earth orbit satellites in what will be one of the largest ‘tech upgrades’ in history,” SpaceX said in a press kit. “The process of replacing the satellites one-by-one in a constellation of this size and scale has never been completed before.”
Friday’s launch used the same first-stage rocket from Iridium’s similar mission in October. SpaceX did not attempt to recover the rocket again for reuse. It did try to catch part of the fairing, or nose cone, though was unsuccessful, Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk said.