Update October 9th, 8:50AM ET: After today’s launch, the majority of the Falcon 9 rocket successfully landed on one of SpaceX’s drone ships in the Pacific. That brings the company’s total landings this year to 11. So far, every attempt to land a Falcon 9 this year has been a success.
Original Story: This morning, SpaceX is set to launch another one of its Falcon 9 rockets from Vandenberg, California, sending 10 satellites into orbit for communications company Iridium. It’s the first of two launches the company plans to attempt this week on opposite coasts of the US. And SpaceX will try to land both rockets on floating drone ships after takeoff — the first in the Pacific and the other in the Atlantic.
Today’s launch is familiar to SpaceX, since the company has basically done it before. SpaceX holds a contract with Iridium to launch 75 of the company’s Iridium NEXT satellites, in order to create a constellation of 66 telecommunications probes in lower Earth orbit, with nine in-orbit spares. The company launched the first 10 of these probes in January and another batch of 10 in June. The rest will continue to be launched in 10-satellite increments over the next year, along with one launch of five.
Once today’s launch is over, SpaceX will quickly turn to its next mission
Once today’s launch is over, SpaceX will quickly turn to its next mission in Cape Canaveral, Florida. On Wednesday, the company is scheduled to launch a hybrid broadcasting satellite to be used by both SES and EchoStar. For that mission, SpaceX will be using a partially used Falcon 9 rocket that previously flew during a launch in February. If successful, it’ll be the third time that SpaceX has reused a Falcon 9 — and if the vehicle lands post-launch, it’ll also be the third to do so.
After these two launches, SpaceX will have completed 15 missions this year, nearly twice as many as the company did in 2016; SpaceX’s launches last year were cut short after one of its Falcon 9 rockets exploded on a launch pad during a routine fueling procedure. But the company has rebounded in 2017, and it plans to complete a whopping 20 launches before the year is out, according to CEO Elon Musk.
Today’s launch is slated for 8:37AM ET, and SpaceX has an instantaneous launch window, so the company must launch at that time or reschedule. There’s a backup launch date available on Tuesday at 8:31AM ET. So far, weather is looking pretty good for launch, with a 90 percent chance that conditions will be favorable. Check back here 15 minutes before launch time to watch SpaceX’s coverage live.