SpaceX launched its first mission of 2019, fulfilling its Iridium contract, while the Falcon 9 due to loft the company's Crew Dragon demo mission remained resolutely attached to Florida. Iridium CEO Matt Desch counted down the final seconds.
The first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket lands on a drone ship in the Pacific Ocean
This will not be this Falcon 9's first landing, as the booster was used to launch the Telstar 18V communications satellite in September 2018. The show was completed with a first stage booster landing on droneship "Just Read the Instructions", SpaceX's 33rd such landing and the successful deployment of Falcon's payload. It was refurbished for today's launch, and now it's eligible for a third go-round. "The process of replacing the satellites one by one in a constellation of this size and scale has never been completed before".
In an image made from the SpaceX webcast, a spacecraft deploys the final set of Iridium NEXT satellites into orbit, January 11, 2019.More news: Ruth Bader Ginsburg's recovery "on track", no sign of remaining cancer
Iridium Certis, for example, will enable new types of broadband applications such as drone command and control. The new constellation marks the first upgrade of its kind and is created to provide L-band broadband solutions and truly global aircraft surveillance and tracking.
Over the past two years, SpaceX has put 75 Iridium NEXT satellites into orbit, including 66 operational spacecraft for the telecommunications constellation and nine on-orbit spares. 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.More news: Person driving blindfolded crashes while playing the 'Bird Box Challenge'
Of course, Falcon 9 is but a mere stepping stone to Elon's mighty Starship, and His Muskiness unveiled a finished version of the test flight rocket at SpaceX's Texas facility this morning.More news: Michael Jackson's estate slams HBO documentary alleging sexual abuse