SpaceX launches seven satellites aboard used Falcon 9 rocket
Payload includes two Nasa satellites that will track Earth’s water cycle
SpaceX successfully launched one of its used Falcon 9 crafts into space yesterday evening carrying a payload of seven satellites.
Lifting off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 3:48pm EST (7.48pm GMT), the rocket was powered by a first-stage booster that previously launched SpaceX’s secretive Zuma military mission in January.
The seven satellites heading into orbit comprise five Iridium Next communication satellites and two crafts for Nasa and the German Research Centre for Geosciences.
The Iridium Next satellites are part of a campaign by US telecommunications company Iridium to “replace the world’s largest commercial satellite network”, says CNet.
Meanwhile, Nasa and the German research centre’s “Grace” (gravity recovery and climate experiment) satellites will be used to track the water coverage and movement on Earth’s surface, the tech news site reports.
Although SpaceX recovers the booster stages of many of its rockets, to reduce costs and waste, the company did not attempt to land the rocket involved in yesterday’s mission, Space.com says.
The Elon Musk-owned aerospace company did try, but failed, to land the nose cone of the rocket, which keeps the satellites in place until they reach orbit.
The Falcon 9 rocket itself was one of SpaceX’s Block 4 models, which can only be used on two missions before being discontinued, says Ars Technica.
The company plans to move operations over to its new Block 5 rocket, which made its maiden flight two weeks ago and can used on at least ten missions before any major parts need replacing.