Ten Iridium Next satellites, numbers 21 thru 30, represent the third such launch for the SpaceX/Iridium partnership as the satellite communication company looks to build its next-generation constellation for voice and data.
The Falcon 9 spacecraft lifted off on the Iridium-3 mission from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 8:37 EDT during a one-second-wide “instantaneous” launch window. The first stage booster returned safely to Earth where it landed on the autonomous landing ship “Just Read the Instructions.”
At about 51 minutes after launch, the second stage re-ignited for a short burn to circularize the craft’s orbit so that it could begin a 15-minute process of deploying satellites directly over ground stations.
Beginning at about 57:10 after launch, the satellite dispenser began deploying the satellites about 100 seconds apart after which they increased their own altitude to their final orbit. All ten satellites separated cleanly and in position.
SpaceX has another launch planned for Wednesday evening.