SpaceX's First Launch Since The Big Explosion Will Happen TomorrowBy Fred Ferguson Jan 15, 2017
The launch, which is set to unfold Saturday at California's Vandenberg Air Force Base, marks a crucial - and expensive - test for the private space company in the aftermath of its recent, very visible misfire.
The launch went off as planned at 9:54 a.m.
An initial batch of 10 Iridium Communications satellites launched into space Saturday in the start of the McLean, Va. -based company's program to form its 81-strong, second-generation NEXT constellation for government and commercial customers around the world. About one hour into the flight, the first of 10 Iridium satellites were deployed with the last going into polar orbit at one hour and 14 minutes since lift-off. SpaceX will also attempt to bring back the first-stage of the Falcon 9 rocket for a landing on its west coast autonomous drone ship, Just Read The Instructions.
SpaceX is hopeful that the weather conditions are good enough and is now looking at 60 percent favorable conditions in terms of weather.
But lower costs can not offset significantly higher risk, and industry analysts say SpaceX needs a string of successful flights to maintain its long-range goal of capturing a major share of the commercial launch market.
Matt Desch, CEO of Iridium Communications Inc., confirmed this Saturday's rescheduled launch on Twitter after joking about the poor weather.
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Previously, SpaceX had been using a new fast loading procedure, but for this launch it apparently returned to the previous method it had used in prior successful launches. The company had been grounded until today, as it investigated the accident and worked to ensure that something similar doesn't happen again.
This was the first successful landing on this particular drone ship, although four others had already been performed on the alternate drone ship that SpaceX has positioned in the Atlantic.
Elon Musk, the tech billionaire and CEO of SpaceX, told CNBC a year ago that the problem surprised engineers.
Elon Musk-led SpaceX is all set for the resumption of rocket flight services on January 14, Saturday, with the launch of a bunch of Iridium satellites. During this mission, a Dragon cargo spacecraft was delivered to the International Space Station.
Gwynne Shotwell, president and chief operating officer of SpaceX, said a lot is at stake as the company rolls its new rocket to the launch pad in California.
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