SpaceX nails first of two rocket launches in just four days

The company successfully launched a Falcon 9 rocket Friday, with another planned for Monday. SpaceX has been ramping up its pace for the long road to Mars and beyond.

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Eric Mack
2 min read

SpaceX will launch 10 Iridium satellites atop a Falcon 9 Friday.


It's a busy weekend for Elon Musk's rocket company, SpaceX, which launched 10 satellites aboard a Falcon 9 rocket Friday morning, just a few days before it will send supplies to the International Space Station aboard another.

Friday's launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California involved the same Falcon 9 rocket that launched a batch of Iridium satellites in October. The mission is to deploy 10 more satellites to join the telecommunications company's next-generation constellation. 

You can watch the Iridium-5 launch below:

SpaceX didn't attempt to recover the previously used Falcon 9 again, but it was planning to try to catch the fairing (the nose cone that covers the payload during launch) via Mr. Steven, a cargo ship equipped with a huge net. Last time Mr. Steven tried to catch a fairing it missed by just a few hundred meters.

Next, Monday's launch will take place at 1:30 p.m. PT from Florida, with SpaceX's Dragon capsule making its 14th resupply run to the space station. 

The rocket to be used on Monday also flew the 12th resupply mission to the ISS in August, and SpaceX is unlikely to try to recover it. 

Musk and SpaceX have huge ambitions that include no less than sending a million people to Mars. To get there, the company first has to prove that it can handle a rapid cadence of rocket launches, so it's been trying to ramp up the pace of its missions over the past few years. In 2017 SpaceX launched 18 rockets; with these two launches the company will already have completed seven launches for the year by next week.

SpaceX is going to want to be extra careful to keep an eye out for some extra traffic in the atmosphere over the next few days in the form of China's falling space station Tiangong-1: both Florida and California are within the wide region where the out of control spacecraft could collide with Earth's atmosphere. 

First published, March 29, 8:34 p.m. PT. 
Update March 30 at 8:15 a.m. PT: Adds successful launch of Iridium-5.

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