SpaceX's Falcon 9 rockets have shown their worth by being reused to launch 10 Iridium Communications satellites into space. The Falcon 9 turned toward the south, heading for a 388-mile-high (625-kilometer) polar orbit.
The payload is the fifth set of 10 new satellites launched for Iridium, which is replacing its entire global satellite network.
Although no first-stage booster recovery is planned by the company for this launch, SpaceX will attempt to capture the rocket's fairing using what has been generically termed a "catchers mitt" installed on the ship (named "Mr. Steven") which was developed to enfold the nose cone prior to ocean envelopment. To do that, Iridium has bought eight Falcon 9 launches for a total of $536 million.
It is, however, expected to try to recover the rocket's "fairing, " or nosecone, using a large ship dubbed Mr. Steven, which is outfitted with a large netting.
SpaceX did not attempt to recover Falcon 9's first stage after launch.
The company has quietly attempted to recapture the 43-foot-long fairing halves since at least March of 2017.
Musk is already tweeting about plans for running more tests and tweaking the fairing's systems to give it a better chance of success next time. Iridium is now in the process of building out its NEXT constellation of communications satellites, and in all, it will be comprised of 75 satellites. SpaceX has signed on to deliver 75 Iridium satellites to orbit in total.
Starting an hour after launch, the satellites were released one by one approximately every 100 seconds, taking about 15 minutes to successfully complete delivery. The booster that was used in this mission was also used to launch 10 other Iridium satellites on October 9 during the Iridium-3 mission. There are plans for three more launches in the series, according to the company, with the next likely to occur sometime in May.
The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) cargo mission is scheduled to launch on Monday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, with Dragon arriving at the space station next week.