SpaceX rocket carrying communications satellites blasts off in California


A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying 10 satellites for Iridium Communications has blasted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

The rocket lifted off at 7:13 a.m. PT Friday and arced over the Pacific west of Los Angeles.

The satellites are expected to be deployed into low-Earth orbit about an hour after liftoff.

The Falcon 9’s first stage was previously launched on an Iridium mission last October and was recovered.

The payload is the fifth set of 10 new satellites launched for Iridium, which is replacing its entire global satellite network.

Vehicle carrying 10 communications satellites 1:38

The $3-billion US project is scheduled for completion this year, with a total of 75 new satellites in orbit. Iridium, based in McLean, Virginia, provides mobile voice and data communications.

Next launch April 2

SpaceX plans to launch a Falcon 9 rocket on April 2 at Cape Canaveral, Fla., carrying its own communications satellite.

On Thursday, the U.S. communications regulator gave formal approval to a plan by Elon Musk’s SpaceX to build a global broadband network using satellites.

“This is the first approval of a U.S.-licensed satellite constellation to provide broadband services using a new generation of low-Earth orbit satellite technologies,” the Federal Communications Commission said in a statement.

The system proposed by privately held SpaceX, as Space Exploration Holdings is known, will use 4,425 satellites, the FCC said, and will help improve communications in rural or hard-to-serve places where fibre-optic cables and cell towers do not reach.

SpaceX has been granted authority to use frequencies in the Ka (20/30 GHz) and Ku (11/14 GHz) bands.

Musk, who is also the founder and chief executive of electric automaker Tesla Inc., said in 2015 that SpaceX planned to launch a satellite-internet business that would help fund a future city on Mars.

SpaceX wanted to create a “global communications system” that Musk compared to “rebuilding the internet in space.” It would be faster than traditional internet connections, he said.


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