In the second launch in two days SpaceX successfully deployed ten more Iridium® NEXT satellites. The Falcon 9 booster lifted off from Vandenberg, CA carrying the ten satellites at 4:25 PM EDT and 57 minutes later started deploying the individual satellites.
The first stage landed back on the Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship “Just Read The Instructions”, which as Elon Musk tweeted earlier had to be repositioned.
This was the first Falcon 9 launch that used a newer design for the grid fins and according to another tweet from Elon performed better than expected.
This was the ninth launch this year and seventh landing, making this the most launches in a single year for SpaceX.
This afternoon at 3:10 pm EDT SpaceX successfully delivered the BulgariaSat-1 satellite to orbit. Originally scheduled to launch on Monday the flight was delayed to give SpaceX time to replace a valve on the payload fairing that, while it had a redundant system, wasn’t worth risking the launch for.
This is the eighth launch of 2017 for SpaceX which equals their previous record for launches in a single year. That record is scheduled to be broken on Sunday when the second Iridium Next launch is due to occur.
This was the second launch to use a flight proven booster, this one had previously been used on Jan 14th to launch the first Iridium Next mission. As SpaceX continue to improve their processes the time between launches of previously flown boosters should drop significantly.
The first stage successfully returned to the Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship (ASDS) “Of Course I Still Love You” following the successful completion of the first stage mission. As Elon Musk mentioned below this wasn’t guaranteed. On its first flight, the booster landed on the ASDS “Just Read the Instructions”.
SpaceX passed another important milestone, on their route to reusability, with the successful launch of the CRS-11 Dragon mission to the International Space Station.
The Dragon capsule used for this launch previously flew to the ISS on the CRS-4 mission in September 2014 and following some refurbishment and re-certification was approved for this current mission. With this launch, SpaceX became the first commercial company to send a previously flown capsule to orbit.
This was the 7th launch this year and 5th landing for SpaceX and the cadence doesn’t look to be slowing down anytime soon with several more launches scheduled for June including one from Vandenburg.
Among the payloads being carried to the ISS are the Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER), Roll-Out Solar Array (ROSA) and Multiple User System for Earth Sensing Facility (MUSES).