SpaceX successfully completes two Falcon 9 landings in one weekend with liftoff of a Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California carrying 10 satellites owned by Iridium Communications.
The rocket took off on June 25 from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base at 4:25PM ET. It delivered 10 satellites into orbit for the communications company Iridium. It’s the company’s ninth launch of 2017, and six months in, are the most completed by SpaceX in a single year.
Redesigned, larger grid fins, mounted near the top of the 14-story-tall first stage, helped guide the returning booster to a precision touchdown despite strong winds.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said on Twitter that the new grid fins, made of titanium instead of aluminum can be used indefinitely with no touchups.
Musk also warned earlier in the day that the landing might be tricky, and weather conditions were described as borderline.
Launch at 1:25 delivering 10 satellites for Iridium. Droneship repositioned due to extreme weather. Will be tight. https://t.co/6ZcSG29B74
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 25, 2017
Nonetheless, SpaceX made its lucky 13th successful landing overall, and its eighth at sea.
Launching of the Iridium satellites on Sunday was the quickest yet for SpaceX, which pulled off the feat by relying on two separate launch teams, one based at Kennedy Space Center in Florida for Friday’s launch and the second at Vandenberg, which handled the polar-orbiting Iridium satellite flight. Mission control for both flights was at the company’s Hawthorne, California, headquarters.
SpaceX is key to cutting launch costs. If the company didn’t use the technique of refurbishing used rockets, it could cost tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars to custom-build for each mission.
The back-to-back launches are the closest together so far for SpaceX, which launched a refurbished Falcon 9 booster. The reused rocket had previously delivered the first 10 Iridium satellites into orbit.
Company spokesman John Taylor said: “In total, SpaceX has more than 70 launches, worth more than $10 billion, on its manifest.”
SpaceX’s next launch is targeted for mid-July for Intelsat.