SpaceX lands 1st stage after California launch of 10 communications satellites

An early-morning rocket launch traces an arc of light across the horizon

Ready for an early morning spectacle? SpaceX rocket launch still on for Friday | The Tribune

All 10 newly launched satellites communicated with Iridium's network operations centre and were being readied for testing, the company said.

Iridium now has 75 new satellites in orbit, including nine spares.

A Falcon 9 rocket launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base on Friday served as the grand finale for one of the largest tech upgrades in space history, including revolutionary change to the global air-traffic surveillance system.

Liftoff of the Iridium 8 mission occurred at 7:31 a.m. PST (10:31 EST / 15:31 GMT) at the opening of an instantaneous launch window.

After being rescheduled several times, the Falcon 9 rocket officially launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB) on Friday morning.

'There it is, right in the middle of the bullseye, ' said SpaceX commentator John Innsbrucker, as live images showed the first stage of the rocket standing upright on the droneship named 'Just Read the Instructions'.

After a series of quick milestones in the minutes following the launch, the rocket's second stage shut off its engines and coasted high above the Earth for 40 minutes.

Like other rockets, SpaceX s separate after launch into a first and second stage.

The Falcon 9 will be carrying a payload of 10 Iridium NEXT satellites. This will be the company's first landing attempt since a stage launched December 5 malfunctioned and "landed" in the Atlantic Ocean off Cape Canaveral. "The process of replacing the satellites one by one in a constellation of this size and scale has never been completed before".

Iridium has been moving its new satellites into positions that were held by the old ones, which are lowered until they burn up in the atmosphere.

The first Iridium satellites were launched in the 1990s to offer voice, data, fax and paging services to customers with Iridium handheld telephones and pagers.

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