A SpaceX rocket sent two mini-fleet satellites into orbit in the California morning sky, then landed in the ocean on Friday (May 20), capturing amazing video along the way.
The Falcon 9 rocket, carrying 21 satellites for Iridium and OneWeb, lifted off from Space Launch Complex 4 East at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California at 9:16 a.m. EDT (1316GMT; 6:16 a.m. local California time).
The successful launch came a day after a last-minute abort on Friday, when SpaceX pulled out 55 seconds before liftoff.
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“Since then, crews have completed checkouts on the vehicle and ground systems, and we’re well into today’s effort,” SpaceX operations engineer Shiva Bharadwaj said during the company’s launch commentary.
Indeed, the launch went smoothly from foggy ground weather, with the Falcon 9 rocket piercing the low clouds over Vandenberg and soaring into a gorgeous morning sky. Broadcasting a stunning video of its Earth departure (and subsequent earnings).
Falcon 9’s first stage returned to Earth nine minutes after liftoff, touching down with the SpaceX droneship off course I Still Love You parked in the Pacific Ocean. According to Bhardwaj and the mission description, this is the 11th launch and landing for this particular booster and the 193rd landing of a SpaceX Orbital Class rocket.
The rocket’s upper stage, meanwhile, carried the satellites — five Iridium and the other 16 OneWeb — into low-Earth orbit. All of them were expected to be dispatched within a 30-minute period, starting an hour after boarding. SpaceX used a compressed-node Merlin engine on this plane due to its payload requirements.
“The truncated tip transporter made its debut on the 7 mission,” Bhardwaj said. “It will continue to be used in tasks that do not require high performance to reach their end goal.”
Fifteen of the OneWeb satellites will further build the company’s broadband constellation in low Earth orbit. 16th JOISAT Technology Demonstration.
“JoeySat features several new technologies, including a digitally regenerative payload and the demonstration of multi-beam electronically steered phased array antennas,” OneWeb wrote. Job description.
SpaceX has already launched three batches of OneWeb Internet satellites, sending 40 spacecraft into the sky on each of those previous missions.
The five Iridium satellites are spares that provide additional backup to the company’s currently operational 66 telecommunications satellites. (Iridium already has nine spare satellites in orbit.)
“Our constellation is incredibly healthy; however, we have no use for spare satellites on the ground,” Iridium CEO Matt Desh said in a statement. Report in September 2022When this SpaceX release was announced.
“We built additional satellites as an insurance policy, and with SpaceX’s stellar track record, we look forward to another successful launch that will position us even better to replicate the longevity of our first satellite,” he added.
The launch was SpaceX’s second in a rapid succession. The company launched 22 of its Starlink “V2 mini” Internet satellites on Friday from Florida’s Space Coast.
And SpaceX isn’t done over the weekend.
On Sunday (May 21), the company will launch its third rocket in three days, this time to send four private astronauts to the International Space Station for commercial company Axiom Space. Called the Ax-2 mission, the flight is commanded by former NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, with paying customer John Shofner serving as pilot.
Saudi Arabia flies two astronauts, Ali Alkarni and Rayana Barnawi, with Barnawi becoming the first Saudi woman to fly in space. You can follow the mission on Space.com with our Ax-2 Mission Live Updates page. Liftoff is set 5:37 PM EDT (2137 GMT) On Sunday.
Saturday’s launch marked SpaceX’s 33rd launch of 2023 and its 238th launch overall.
By Mike Wall “outside” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Carl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelWall. Follow us @Spacedotcomor on Facebook And Instagram.