SpaceX Launches Several Satellites On Falcon 9 Rocket From Vandenberg

Falcon 9 on the launchpad

Iridium and the GRACE-FO team originally planned to launch today's satellites on separate Dnepr missions, but had to find another ride when Russian Federation halted missions on the converted intercontinental ballistic missile.

While SpaceX often recovers the first-stage of its rockets so they can be reused in future missions, SpaceX did not attempt such a recovery this time.

Hawthorne-based SpaceX successfully launched several communication and research satellites on a Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base near Lompoc Tuesday.

The GPS III satellites are expected to provide improved security against cyberthreats, as well as more accuracy for navigation.

The mission picks up from GRACE, a satellite pair that launched in 2002 and tracked, among other things, precisely how much ice was lost each year in Greenland and Antarctica until 2017.

This first-stage booster has flown once before, a little more than four months ago when it launched the Zuma mission for the U.S. government-a satellite or spacecraft that was apparently lost in space after it failed to separate from the second stage of the Falcon 9 rocket.

The fairing recovery ship "came very close but not quite", he said on SpaceX's webcast.

"Water is critical to every aspect of life on Earth - for health, for agriculture, for maintaining our way of living", said Michael Watkins, GRACE-FO science lead and director of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. The project, a joint effort of NASA and the German Research Centre for Geosciences. Second burn and Iridium orbit good.... SpaceX has signed up for a total of eight Iridium NEXT launches with the aim of putting 75 new satellites into orbit. The satellite can do this by keeping track of the changes in Earth's gravity field, which is caused by the movement of water, ice, land and the inner solid parts of the planet. An additional six spares will remain on the ground until needed. The GRACE-FO satellites will trail each other in flawless synchronization for roughly 137 miles (220 kilometers). They will use microwave tracking that can measure the distance between the two 1,300-pound satellites to within the diameter of a red blood cell. SpaceX appears to have been absolved from blame for this mishap, and certainly the first stage booster performed nominally during that mission.

NASA has spent $430 million on the mission, and Germany has spent about $91 million.

"GRACE was really a revolutionary mission for us understanding the water cycle and how the climate behaves and the trends which are taking place over the last 10 or 15 years", Frank Webb, GRACE-FO project scientist, told a pre-launch press conference.

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