SpaceX is back to inventing the future after a successful rocket launch

Elbert EdwardsJan 15, 2017

As reported by The Associated Press, the SpaceX designed and manufactured Falcon 9 rocket left the Air Force launch facility in Vandenberg, California flawlessly and on schedule.

The Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base at 5.54pm United Kingdom time to put 10 satellites into orbit for the Iridium communications company.

The first stage engines shut down about two-and-a-half minutes after launch.

The successful flight on Saturday took 10 satellites into orbit for a communications company. This initial batch of satellites will grow to encompass a "constellation" of at least 70 satellites that will form the basis of the company's Iridium Next network. A few minutes after launch, the Falcon 9's first stage separated from the upper stage, then headed back down to Earth to attempt a touchdown on "Just Read the Instructions", a SpaceX robotic "drone ship" stationed in the Pacific Ocean off the California coast.

SpaceX has successfully landed a Falcon 9 booster six times, including two touchdowns at its "Landing Zone 1" in Florida and four times on a drone ship in the Atlantic.

And underlying all of this is SpaceX's hope to fly more rockets in 2017 than it has in any other year, with 18 launches expected.

A camera aboard the first stage gave viewers a you-are-there experience as it returned to Earth, flared landing rockets and made a ideal upright touchdown on the floating pad.

IridiumNEXT satellites being fueled, pressurized & stacked on dispenser tiers at Vandenberg AFB for Falcon 9 launch. Video of the landing via a SpaceX webcast captured the entire descent, in which the Falcon 9 touched down almost dead center on its landing pad target.

NEXT will eventually replace Iridium's current communications network, which consists of 66 satellites in low-Earth orbit, company representatives have said. They have to get this one right. According to the report, SpaceX experienced a $260 million loss in 2015 on just under $1 billion in launch revenue following a previous explosion that curtailed launch operations, reversing a small operating profit in 2014.

"There are so many variables that need to be considered when finalizing launch preparations, and a slight deviation or unexpected behavior by any of them can jeopardize the launch integrity", Smith said. When pressurized, oxygen pooled in this buckle can become trapped; in turn, breaking fibers or friction can ignite the oxygen in the overwrap, causing the COPV to fail.

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