The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Iridium-8 mission stands atop Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California a day before a scheduled Jan. 11, 2019 launch. The mission will launch 10 Iridium Next communications satellites into orbit.
SpaceX will launch 10 communications satellites and attempt a rocket landing Friday morning (Jan. 11), and you can watch all the action live.
A two-stage Falcon 9 rocket carrying 10 spacecraft for the telecommunications company Iridium is scheduled to lift off from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base Friday at 10:31 a.m. EST (1531 GMT; 7:31 a.m. local California time). You can watch a launch webcast here at Space.com, courtesy of SpaceX, or follow along directly via SpaceX.
There will be action in the downward direction as well: About 7 minutes after liftoff, the Falcon 9’s first stage will attempt a vertical touchdown on the SpaceX droneship “Just Read the Instructions,” which will be stationed in the Pacific Ocean.
This first stage already has one landing under its belt. The booster helped loft the Telstar 18V communications satellite in September 2018.
Such reuse is a priority for SpaceX’s billionaire founder and CEO, Elon Musk, who aims to cut the price of spaceflight dramatically. The company has already pulled off dozens of rocket landings and reflown numerous Falcon 9 first stages and Dragon cargo capsules (which make robotic resupply runs to the International Space Station under a SpaceX contract with NASA).
The 10 spacecraft going up today are the last of 75 satellites SpaceX is launching for the “Iridium NEXT” constellation, which will replace Iridium’s previous generation of telecom craft. When done, Iridium NEXT will feature 66 operational satellites and nine on-orbit spares, as well as six spares on the ground.
SpaceX is lofting these 75 satellites over the course of eight Falcon 9 launches, the most recent of which took place in July 2018. So, the upcoming launch is known as Iridium-8.
Friday’s planned liftoff has been delayed several times, in part to give SpaceX time to work through some issues with the Falcon 9, Iridium CEO Matt Desch tweeted earlier this week.
Mike Wall’s book about the search for alien life, “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate) is out now. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us @Spacedotcom or Facebook. Originally published on Space.com.