SpaceX’s Iridium-8 mission couldn’t have gone any better. The last batch of 10 Iridium NEXT satellites have made their way into low-Earth orbit earlier today, after lifting off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California atop a Falcon 9 rocket.
The recycled space vehicle — which previously flew Telstar’s 18 VANTAGE satellite into space — took off from Space Launch Complex 4E at 10:31 a.m. EST, soaring to the skies during an instantaneous launch window. This type of launch window is required for the Iridium NEXT satellites to reach their orbit, the Inquisitr reported yesterday.
Today’s rocket flight was the first successful launch of 2019, notes Space. At the same time, the event marked the glorious end of the two-year collaboration between SpaceX and Iridium.
With the success of this eighth and final launch, SpaceX has now lofted a total of 75 Iridium NEXT satellites — 66 active spacecraft and nine serving as on-orbit spares.
“Incredible! We are beyond proud to share that the eighth and final Iridium NEXT launch is a success!” Iridium announced via Twitter.
The launch of the Iridium-8 mission was chronicled by SpaceX on the company’s Twitter account, which posted a number of photos of the Falcon 9 rocket and its multi-satellite payload. SpaceX also provided constant updates of the mission’s status — starting with liftoff and all the way through satellite deployment and the flawless ocean landing of the Falcon 9 first stage.
Two minutes after launch, SpaceX confirmed the main engine cutoff and stage separation, then announced that the payload fairing — the nose cone which protects the spacecraft during its plunge through the atmosphere — had been deployed.
Soon after that, the first stage of the Falcon 9 headed back to Earth, performing an impeccable landing on the SpaceX “Just Read the Instructions” drone ship stationed in the Pacific Ocean.
Falcon 9 first stage has landed on the Just Read the Instructions droneship. pic.twitter.com/8l5fdMyJgH— SpaceX (@SpaceX) January 11, 2019
The rocket booster touched down on its landing pad about seven minutes after launch, bringing SpaceX’s total number of successful landings to 33, points out The Verge.
“There it is, right in the middle of the bull’s-eye,” SpaceX’s launch commentator John Insprucker, who is also the principal integration engineer, said during the live webcast of the Iridium-8 launch. “The first stage is back again down on Earth.”
Meanwhile, the rocket’s second stage continued its flight toward low-Earth orbit, where it began deploying the Iridium NEXT satellites about an hour after liftoff.
“That’s not only 10 for 10 today, but 75 for 75,” Insprucker said after the final satellite successfully deployed, about 70 minutes after launch. “It’s been a clean sweep for Iridium and Falcon 9.”
Each of the Iridium NEXT satellites is about the same size and weight as a Mini Cooper. The new-generation spacecraft have replaced Iridium’s older satellite constellation and will enable “innovative new products and services,” while also hosting the AireonSM system, a state-of-the-art air traffic control technology, SpaceX detailed in the Iridium-8 mission overview.
Over the next three weeks, Iridium will be testing the newly deployed satellites to verify that the upgraded constellation is up to par.
In case you missed the live-stream of today’s launch and wish to see the action with your own eyes, check out the entire broadcast at the link below.