SpaceX successfully completes back-to-back launches in 48 hours

Updated 2017-06-26 10:32:22 Xinhua

Just over 48 hours after its successful launch of BulgariaSat-1, U.S. space firm SpaceX has successfully completed its second launch on Sunday with liftoff of a Falcon 9 rocket from California carrying 10 Iridium-NEXT satellites into low-Earth orbit (LEO).

The rocket lifted off from the foggy Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 1:25 p.m. local time (2025 GMT) and again land its first stage on a drone ship, a live webcast showed.

Following stage separation, the first stage of Falcon 9 successfully landed on the "Just Read the Instructions" droneship stationed in the Pacific Ocean, despite challenging weather conditions.

"Successful deployment of 10 IridiumComm NEXT satellites to low-Earth orbit confirmed," SpaceX tweeted.

"Received telemetry from all 10 IridiumNEXT satellites," the official Iridium Twitter account tweeted less than three hours after the launching.

This is the second set of 10 satellites in a series of 75 total satellites that SpaceX will launch for Iridium's next generation global satellite constellation, Iridium NEXT. With this launch complete, there are now 20 Iridium NEXT satellites in orbit.

"Right now, it's two down with six more launches to go," Matt Desch, chief executive officer of Iridium, said in a statement. "Our operations team is eagerly awaiting this new batch of satellites and is ready to begin the testing and validation process."

According to Iridium, it is on track to fully replace the world's largest commercial satellite network of low-earth orbit satellites in what will be one of the largest "tech upgrades" in history.

The next generation global satellite constellation will deploy a cross-linked low-Earth orbit architecture, providing coverage over 100 percent of the Earth's surface, including across oceans, airways and polar regions.

Through a series of eight launches, SpaceX will deliver 75 Iridium NEXT satellites to low-Earth orbit, with 66 making up the operational constellation. In total, 81 new satellites are being built, with nine serving as on-orbit spares and six as ground spares. The satellites were designed by Thales Alenia Space, which serves as a system prime contractor, and are being integrated by its subcontractor, Orbital ATK, at its Satellite Manufacturing Facility in Arizona, according to the company.

Sunday's launch took place 49 hours and 15 minutes after that of the previous launch mission, which successfully deployed Bulgaria's first geostationary communications satellite into orbit on Friday.

The BulgariaSat-1 satellite took off on a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 3:10 p.m. EDT (1910 GMT).

Roughly eight minutes after the launch, the rocket's first stage completed a vertical landing on the "Of Course I Still Love You" droneship stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.

The rocket's first stage for the BulgariaSat-1 mission previously supported the Iridium-1 mission from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California in January of this year.

The nearly back-to-back launches are a show of strength for the private space company, whose goal is to get more people in space.

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