Originally scheduled to launch in December, the Iridium 5 mission had been pushed back multiple times to Thursday. The Falcon 9 rocket the company planned to launch was scheduled to carry the fifth installment of the Iridium Next mission.
While SpaceX typically provides live video of its non-classified launches through payload separation, SpaceX ended Friday's video feed shortly before the rocket's second-stage engine stopped firing. The launch was rescheduled for Saturday at first but after the issue was resolved the mission was moved back to Friday. Each launch strategically delivers new satellites to specific orbital planes to ensure the earliest possible completion of the constellation.
The Iridium-NEXT satellites were launched for McLean, Virginia-based satellite operator Iridium Communications.
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Not only does this cost money, of course, but the construction of new payload fairings takes up valuable real estate, and workforce attention, at SpaceX's factory in Hawthorne California. With this launch, it will be the twelfth commercial resupply mission in which SpaceX will fly to the International Space Station. 40 of those satellites were already launched in 2017. Since the older satellites had overperformed excessively, Iridium made a decision to invest a fortune of $3 billion to upgrade its services and increase subscribers base and to offer seamless and uninterrupted data, voice, and other services unlike others falling to meet the needs of the customers.
The company has a high-speed ship with an enormous net structure created to catch half of a fairing as it descends under a parafoil.
Friday's mission used the same first stage booster that orbited 10 Iridium satellites in October. This time too, Mr. Steven was unable to catch the bulbous nose cone when it splashed into the Ocean at the speed eight times greater than the speed of sound. Musk said the fairing landed in the water "a few hundred meters" away from Mr. Steven.