SpaceX continued their 2018 campaign with the successful launch of five more Iridium Next satellites as well as two for NASA.
The NASA satellites consisted of two Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-on (GRACE-FO) satellites which will measure variations in gravity over Earth’s surface.
The two Grace satellites were deployed shortly after the second stage reached orbit, it then coasted for 45 minutes before firing the engine for the second time and then deploying the five Iridium Next satellites.
This was the 10th launch of the year and the 9th for Falcon 9, this was also the 12th time that SpaceX used a previously flown booster. To date, SpaceX has successfully launched 56 times (2 Falcon 1, 53 Falcon 9 and one Falcon Heavy) and delivered 114 satellites, 15 Dragons, and a Roadster to orbit.
SpaceX successfully launched another 10 Iridium Next satellites from their Vandenburg launch pad today. The launch was originally scheduled for March 30th but was delayed a day due to a testing issue with one of the 10 satellites that turned out to be a cable issue with the test system.
Following a smooth countdown, the flight-proven booster’s nine Merlin 1D engines ignited and liftoff occurred at 10:13 am EDT. The 10 satellites were successfully deployed to orbit an hour later.
This was the 5th Falcon 9 launch of 2018 and 51st overall, as with other recent flights SpaceX elected to not recover the first stage booster as it was an older version and instead focused on the payload fairing recovery. At present we haven’t heard any status other than this from Elon.
The fairing recovery wasn’t successful as shown by this tweet from Elon Musk
Today also marks the one year anniversary of SpaceX’s first flight-proven booster launch and with this launch, they have now reused ten boosters.
The launch broadcast we cut off after the 2nd stage engine cut-off due to a licensing issue with NOAA as seen here.
SpaceX concluded it’s launch manifest for 2017 with the successful launch of the 4th Iridium Next and deployment of another ten Iridium Next satellites. The booster used for this mission previously launched ten Iridium Next satellites in June of this year.
This was the 18th launch this year for SpaceX and 45th Falcon 9, unlike previous Iridium launches SpaceX didn’t land the booster instead letting is splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.
This morning SpaceX completed the third of their Iridium Next launches delivery another ten satellites to orbit.
As with the previous Iridium launches the rocket lifted off from SpaceX’s Vandenburg launch site at 8:37 am EDT. Once in orbit, the ten satellites were delivered to their destinations successfully. After separation, the first stage of the rocket landed back on the Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship “Just Read The Instructions”.
This was the 14th launch for SpaceX in 2017 and 42nd overall for the Falcon 9. This was the 11th landing this year with a total of 17 to date.
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 SpaceX successfully returned to flight operations following the September 1st anomaly with the successful launch of ten Iridium Next satellites. The launch was delayed several times due to the investigation into the anomaly, as well as the unfavorable weather around Vandenburg this week.
As a result of the investigation into the anomaly, there were several changes to the countdown process for this launch, the first and most obvious was the lack of payload during the static fire test. Less obvious was the change to the fueling process in previous launches the RP-1 and LOX were loaded at the same time in the last 35 minutes of the countdown. However for this launch the RP-1 loading started 70 minutes before launch with the LOX being loaded as before with 35 minutes left.
Following a smooth countdown the rocket lifted off on time and successfully deployed the ten satellites, however due to a ground station issue confirmation of the successful deployments took longer then expected. The first stage also successfully landed on the ASDS in the pacific ocean.
Following a four month investigation into the September 1st anomaly that resulted in the lose of a Falcon 9 rocket with it’s payload the Spacecom Amos 6 satellite and significant damage to Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral, Florida. SpaceX announced this week that they have completed the investigate (see report here) and are ready to return to flight operations started on Sunday 8th January with the first of seven launches for Iridium.
SpaceX are able to resume flight operations without having to make design changes to the rocket by changing their propellant loading operation to avoid the scenario that most likely caused the anomaly. They have indicated that longer term they will make design changes to the COPV tanks to resolve the issue which will allow them to resume faster loading operations.
The flight of the Falcon 9 with ten Iridium Next satellites is currently scheduled for 10:28:97 PST on Sunday 8th January from Space Launch Complex 4E in Vandenberg, CA. However this is still subject to the results of the Static Fire test scheduled for Tuesday 3rd and flight readiness review.