Iridium has taken a step closer to completing their Iridium NEXT constellation following a successful launch of 10 more satellites. The satellites developed for Iridium by Thales Alenia Space and Orbital ATK carry L-band antenna used to support the company’s global telecommunications network.
The Falcon 9 rocket carrying the 10 Iridium NEXT satellites lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 14:13 GMT (10:13 local time) on April 30. Follow a successful first stage separation, second stage ignition and cutoff, and a final second stage burn, the 10 Iridium NEXT satellites were released at regular intervals.
Although a first-stage booster controlled descent was performed, there was no recovery attempt made. The stage likely gently splashing down in the Pacific sinking soon after. The booster utilised in Friday’s launch was flight proven having last been used during another Iridium NEXT mission on October 9, 2017.
Friday’s launch also featured another attempt to recover the rocket’s fairing. SpaceX has been developing a system that has the fairing glide down with the aid of a parafoil. A recovery vessel with a net is then in position to catch the fairing. If successful, the fairing can be taken back to SpaceX headquarters, refurbished and reused. Following the successful launch, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk revealed on Twitter that the fairing recovery attempt had not been successful.
GPS guided parafoil twisted, so fairing impacted water at high speed. Air wake from fairing messing w parafoil steering. Doing helo drop tests in next few weeks to solve.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 30, 2018
Image Credit: SpaceX