SpaceX ready for first launch after failed Facebook satellite mission

Georgia ReedJan 15, 2017

The Iridium NEXT satellites delivered to low-Earth orbit are created to increase the company's speed and bandwidth. It touched down on a platform in the Pacific Ocean about 10 minutes after launch.

NEXT will eventually replace Iridium's current communications network, which consists of 66 satellites in low-Earth orbit, company representatives have said. At seven minutes and 45 seconds, a landing burn was initiated and the rocket touched down dead center on the sea barge at eight minutes and 15 seconds after launch.

The incident put off a dozen launches planned for 2016, possibly amounting to more than $740 million in revenue losses for the year.

These 10 satellites the Elon Musk SpaceX Falcon 9 lifted into orbit today will join dozens of others now making up the Iridium satellite service network.

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The financials, which were detailed in the Wall Street Journal, outline how costly a launch setback is for the upstart rocket company.

The mishap dealt a severe blow to SpaceX, still scrambling to catch up with satellite deliveries following a launch accident in 2015.

As important as the Falcon 9 launching was to Iridium, it was even more important for SpaceX after an in-flight failure in June 2015 and the dramatic on-pad explosion September 1 at Cape Canaveral.

The private space firm SpaceX is still pretty psyched about successfully landing its Falcon 9 rocket, and now the company is looking a few more steps ahead. "That's what the history is", Tory Bruno, CEO of United Launch Alliance, told Reuters.

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Recovering these stages is key to SpaceX's mission of bringing down the cost of space flight, which serves its larger goal of making humanity an interplanetary species.

"There are so many variables that need to be considered when finalizing launch preparations, and a slight deviation or unexpected behavior by any of them can jeopardize the launch integrity", noted Iridium COO Scott Smith.

SpaceX and Boeing both won prime contracts in 2014 for NASA's Commercial Crew Program to transport astronauts to and from the International Space Station with both companies scheduled to hold their first crewed test flights in 2018. That included the stage after the successful separation of the first-stage booster and ignition of the second-stage engine, and the successful deployment of the first stage's guidance fins.

Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX president and CEO, said the company now has about 70 flights on its manifest, a backlog valued at some $10 billion.

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SpaceX investigators determined that a faulty steel strut in the Falcon 9's upper stage caused that accident. Bret Johnsen, SpaceX chief financial officer, said in a statement the company continues to enjoy "strong customer relationships".

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