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|Posté le: Mar 26 Déc - 08:51 (2017) Sujet du message: SpaceX concludes 2017 with fourth Iridium Next launch
SpaceX closed out its most successful year to date Dec. 22 with the launch of 10 satellites for mobile satellite services operator Iridium, notching a personal best of 18 launches in a single year.
The Falcon 9 mission, which took off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 8:27 p.m. Eastern in an instantaneous launch window, was the fourth of eight missions for Iridium, carrying the McLean, Virginia-based operator’s second generation satellites, called Iridium Next.
In what now is considered a rarity, SpaceX opted not to recover the rocket’s first stage, instead letting the booster fall into the Pacific Ocean. SpaceX has recovered 20 out of 42 first stage Falcon 9 boosters to date, with the first success following the launch of 11 Orbcomm satellites to low Earth orbit (LEO) in December 2015. Today’s launch was SpaceX’s fifth with a previously flown Falcon 9, using a first stage that had launched the second batch of 10 Iridium Next satellites back in June.
After two years that each had a rocket failure stunting launch rates, SpaceX’s 2017 cadence far exceeded the eight missions of 2016 and the six missions of 2015. Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX president and COO, told SpaceNews last month that the company will shoot for 30 to 40 missions next year, not including SpaceX’s own LEO satellites, and anticipates leveling out at that rate in years to come.
Iridium has the largest launch contract with SpaceX of any commercial satellite operator, launching 75 LEO satellites to replace the company’s aging 20 year old fleet that has nearly tripled its design life. Of the 75, nine will be spares and 66 will be active, providing higher throughput services for Iridium customers. The satellites also carry hosted payloads for Aireon’s flight tracking service and Harris Corp and exactEarth’s ship-tracking business.
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