A SpaceX rocket soared through the California morning sky to deliver two small fleets of satellites into orbit, then plunged into the sea on Friday (May 20), capturing stunning video along the way.
The Falcon 9 rocket, atop 21 Iridium and OneWeb satellites, lifted off from Space Launch Complex 4 East Vandenberg Space Force Base in California at 9:16 a.m. EDT (1316 GMT; 6:16 a.m. California local time) .
The successful launch came one day after a last-minute miscarriage on Friday, when SpaceX canceled the flight just 55 seconds before liftoff.
Related: 8 ways SpaceX has transformed spaceflight
“Since then, teams have completed validations of the vehicle and ground systems, and we’re very much looking forward to today’s attempt,” SpaceX operations engineer Siva Bharadvaj said during the launch commentary.
Indeed, the launch went so smoothly out of hazy ground weather, the Falcon 9 rocket pierced the low clouds above Vandenberg and soared into the stunning morning sky, A stunning video broadcast of her departure from Earth (and subsequent return).
The Falcon 9 first stage returned to Earth about nine minutes after liftoff, landing aboard the SpaceX Of Course I Still Love You drone stationed in the Pacific Ocean. It was the 11th launch and landing of this booster rocket, and the 193rd landing for a SpaceX orbital rocket, according to Bradvage and the mission description.
Meanwhile, the rocket’s upper stage continued to carry satellites – five of which belonged to Iridium and the other 16 to OneWeb – into low Earth orbit. They were all expected to be deployed during a 30-minute period scheduled to begin about an hour after liftoff. SpaceX used a Merlin engine with a shortened nozzle on this flight due to payload needs.
“The shortened crater first appeared on the Transporter 7 mission,” Bharadvaj said. “It will continue to be used for tasks that don’t need a great deal of performance to reach their final destination.”
Fifteen of OneWeb’s satellites will build the company’s broadband constellation in low Earth orbit. Sixteenth is a technology demonstrator known as JoeySat.
“JoySat contains several new technologies, including digitally renewable payload and electronically directed multi-beam phased array antennas,” OneWeb wrote. Description of the task.
SpaceX has already launched three batches of OneWeb internet satellites, sending 40 spacecraft into the skies on each of those previous missions.
The five Iridium satellites are spare parts that will provide additional support to the Company’s 66 communications satellites currently in operation. (Iridium already has nine spare satellites in orbit.)
Iridium CEO Matt Dish said Statement in September 2022when this SpaceX launch was announced.
“We’ve built more satellites as an insurance policy, and with SpaceX’s stellar track record, we look forward to another successful launch, which will best position us to replicate the longevity of our first batch,” he added.
This launch will be the second in quick succession for SpaceX. The company also launched 22 of its own Starlink “V2 mini” internet satellites from Space Coast, Florida, on Friday.
And SpaceX didn’t wrap up for the weekend.
On Sunday (May 21), the company will launch its third rocket in three days, this time to fly four private astronauts to the International Space Station for commercial Axiom Space. The flight is called the Ax-2 mission, and is being piloted by former NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, with agent John Shoffner serving as pilot.
And the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia transports two astronauts on the mission, Ali Al-Qarni and Rayana Bernawi, so that Bernawi becomes the first Saudi woman to fly in space. You can follow the mission at Space.com with our live Ax-2 mission updates page. Boot is set to 5:37 PM EST (2137 GMT) Sunday.
Saturday’s launch marks the launch of SpaceX 33 in 2023 and its 238th launch overall.
Mike Wall is the author of “outsideBook (Major Grand Publishing, 2018; illustration by Carl Tate), a book about the search for aliens. Follow him on Twitter @employee. Follow us @employeeor in Facebook And Instagram.
“Twitteraholic. Total bacon fan. Explorer. Typical social media practitioner. Beer maven. Web aficionado.”