SpaceX Successfully Launches Satellite From Vandenberg AFB

HAWTHORNE (CNS) - Hawthorne-based SpaceX today launched a Falcon 9 rocket carrying 10 satellites for Iridium Communications from Vandenberg Air Force Base northwest of Los Angeles.

The Iridium-5 NEXT Mission launched at 7:13 a.m.

The satellites are part of an ultimate 75-satellite array being positioned for Iridium's ``next-generation'' communications system. The mission involves the fifth set of 10 satellites being launched for the project.

The $3 billion project is scheduled for completion by the middle of the year, with a total of 75 new satellites in orbit. Three more launches are planned this year to help complete Iridium's global satellite constellation. Based in McLean, Virginia, Iridium provides mobile voice and data communications.

The Falcon 9 rocket being used for today's launch was previously used in October for an Iridium satellite mission, and it was successfully recovered for re-use. According to SpaceX, the company will not attempt to recover the rocket after today's planned launch.

It is, however, expected to try to recover the rocket's ``fairing,'' or nosecone, using a large ship dubbed Mr. Steven, which is outfitted with a large netting. The company attempted such a recovery during a February launch, but the fairing missed the net by ``a few hundred meters.'' The fairing did land intact in the ocean, thanks to parachutes that slowed its descent.

SpaceX has been working to perfect the process of recovering rockets to reduce the cost of space missions.

Today's planned launch was the first of two planned by SpaceX in the next four days. The company is scheduled to launch a cargo mission to the International Space Station at 1:30 p.m. Monday from Cape Canaveral.

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