SpaceX Launches 10 Iridium Next Satellites

Falcon 9 lifts off with Iridium Next 41-50 satellites. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

SpaceX successfully launched 10 Iridium Next satellites aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Friday morning.

Iridium-NEXT satellites 41-50 were successfully deployed from the booster’s second stage about an hour after the launch at 7:13 a.m. PDT. It was the fifth batch of 10 Iridium-NEXT satellites that SpaceX has orbited using three different first stage boosters.

An effort to recover half of the payload fairing by catching it with a small ship named Mr Steven failed.

“GPS guided parafoil twisted, so fairing impacted water at high speed,” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted. “Air wake from fairing messing w parafoil steering. Doing helo [helicopter] drop tests in next few weeks to solve.”

The company was forced to cut off its webcast early due to a licensing issue with NOAA. The weather agency said the cameras used constituted a remote sensing space system, requiring a license from the government, SpaceX said.

The provisional license did not allow images to be shown from the second stage once it was on orbit, the company said. This restriction should not be in place once a full license is obtained.

SpaceX’s next launch will be a Dragon resupply mission to the International Space Station for NASA on Monday, April 2. The CRS-14 mission is set to lift off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 4:30 p.m. EDT (2030 GMT). The launch will be webcast at www.spacex.com and www.nasa.gov.

The Iridium-NEXT launch was SpaceX’s sixth flight of the year. It was also the fourth launch of a five planned worldwide over a three-day period. The following launches were conducted on Thursday:

  • an Indian GSLV Mk. II booster orbited the GSAT 6 communications satellite from Satish Dhawan Space Center;
  • a Russian Soyuz-2-1v rocket launched the classified EMKA military payload from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome; and,
  • a Chinese Long March 3B booster orbited a pair of Beidou navigation satellites from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center.

On Saturday, China is scheduled to launch three remote sensing satellite from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center aboard a Long March 4C booster. It will China’s 10th launch of the year and the 31st flight of 2018 worldwide.

  • Congrats to both Iridium and SpaceX teams.

    With so many 2nd gen constellations up or nearing completion, I still wonder about the future of the mega constellations. Iridium, ORBCOMM and Inmarsat aren’t oversubscribed by any means.

    One other thing, I always love that Soyuz 2.1v. It shows the entire history of rocketry, from a 1.5 parallel ground-lit stage vehicle to 2/3 series staging, from open to closed cycles, and the introduction of hyergolic engines. Korolev should be proud.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    Another smooth countdown and smooth flight. The next week will be interesting to see if all those flights get squeezed in. Congrats on another great flight. The paragon of smooth countdowns and a fast launch pace has shifted from Russia to the US and China.

  • Zed_WEASEL

    Iridium and Inmarsat are not the market the Starlink constellation is targeting. They have mobile users. Starlink groundside connection requires a micro static ground station. The ones that have to worry is Internet providers and telecoms.

    Iridium should see a jump in subscribers after they replace the old Iridium satellites which have low bandwidth.

  • windbourne

    I think that starlink will also support aircrafts and ships.

  • Bulldog

    Watched it live and no question SpaceX has hit its stride, it was as issue and drama free as any launch I can recall. Does anyone know what the reasoning was behind NOAA’s mandated early termination of mission video coverage?

  • Jeff2Space

    Something about SpaceX needing a permit to stream video which contains the earth in the background. Remote sensing license or something like that. Reportedly SpaceX has applied for such a license so hopefully we’ll see longer live streams on future missions.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Yes, one of the many regulations governing space commerce is that a remote sensing license from NOAA is required if you wish to take images of the Earth from space. It’s one reason the NSC first order of business is focusing on cleaning up the current licensing of space activities and preparing it for the new age of space commerce and settlement. Otherwise every tourist who flies on the BFR will need a NOAA license to take their selfies at the window (LOL).

  • Paul451

    If Starlink is a LEO/MEO constellation, then they will have to work out station hand-off, that means the receiver can be as mobile as you like, since the satellites are moving faster than any Earth-side user. The only limit seems to be the phased-array antenna requirement.

  • Christopher James Huff

    Not much of a limit, cell phones are incorporating phased arrays now. Starlink may need larger arrays to achieve the beam widths needed to track individual satellites without interference, though.

    Iridium, Inmarsat, etc may actually be part of the market Starlink is targeting. If they start including Starlink-compatible optical transceivers in their satellites, they could take advantage of the higher bandwidth and distributed Internet links while using ground-to-orbit communications technologies more suitable for their own purposes.

  • Michael Halpern

    Which is nothing new, cleaning up licensing of space activities has been discussed for a decade, the way I see it, its the industry growth more than any ‘council’ that will force the change,

  • ThomasLMatula

    It looks like SpaceX was able to recover the faring after all. Great going!

    https://www.teslarati.com/spacex-recovers-fairing-half-mr-steven-clawboat-iridium-launch/

    SpaceX returns intact fairing half on clawboat in post-launch surprise

    By Eric Ralph

    Posted on March 31, 2018