The Falcon 9 rocket successfully lifted a payload of 10 satellites into orbit for communications company Iridium, delivering the satellites into low-Earth orbit about an hour after launch. The return launch and flight is an important step for Space X, billionaire Elon Musk's California-based company that has about 70 launches waiting, worth more than $10 billion.
The launch of the satellites marked the start of a series of Iridium NEXT launches that have been scheduled to take place over the next one and a half year.it would also mark the beginning of one of the world's largest tech refreshes.
SpaceX also intends to try to land the rocket's first stage on a barge in the Pacific Ocean south of Vandenberg about eight minutes after liftoff. The explosion at Cape Canaveral last September destroyed a 62-million-dollar rocket and a satellite worth almost 200-million.
Launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, the satellites are part of the Iridium NEXT satellite constellation.
The Jan. 14 success was critical because SpaceX has a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to send astronauts to the International Space Station and is targeting November for the first demonstration flight and May 2018 for the first test flight with humans aboard.
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SpaceX successfully returned to sending machines into orbit by launching 10 commercial satellites over the weekend.
"We are proud to be a part of this revolutionary satellite program", said Frank Culbertson, president of Orbital ATK's Space Systems Group. SpaceX plans to refurbish and re-use the boosters, starting this year.
The satellites deployed January 14 are part of the Iridium NEXT constellation network, providing new and better communications services such as allowing air-traffic controllers to monitor planes flying over oceans anywhere in the world.
As a result of the accident investigation, SpaceX is changing the way it fuels its rockets to prevent canisters of helium, located inside liquid oxygen tanks, from bursting.