The first SpaceX launch of the New Year is scheduled to take place (NET) Friday, January 11 at 10:31 AM EST (15:31 UTC). SpaceX completed the static fire for the Iridium-8 mission at Space Launch Complex 4E (SLC-4E) at Vandenberg AFB in California on January 6, and will launch 10 satellites of the Iridium NEXT constellation aboard a Falcon 9 from the same pad this weekend.
(image courtesy AmericaSpace)
The relationship between SpaceX and Iridium traces back to 2010, when Iridium contracted Elon Musk’s private space company to launch its entire NEXT satellite constellation shortly after the very first successful flight of a Falcon 9. It would be seven years before SpaceX would be able to start fulfilling that contract, but since the first of seven previous Iridium NEXT missions was completed in 2017, SpaceX has been able to launch and deploy each subsequent group of satellites every few months with little interruption. This month’s launch will be the eighth and final launch of the Iridium NEXT constellation of satellites, and upon its completion, SpaceX will have launched a total of 75 satellites for Iridium in just two years.
The Falcon 9 for this mission will be a previously-flown booster that was launched and recovered in September of 2018 during the Telstar 18V mission. This final group of ten Iridium NEXT satellites will be inserted into a Low Polar Orbit, and the first stage of the Falcon 9 will land once again, this time at sea aboard SpaceX’s Pacific drone barge Just Read the Instructions.
Those who wish to watch this milestone mission can tune into SpaceX’s live webcast at spacex.com and on the company’s YouTube channel. Coverage will begin approximately 20 minutes before liftoff.
Peace, love and rockets…
It’s almost become a rarity to have a break between SpaceX launches anymore. It seems like we’ve written a lot this summer about multiple launches in the span of a week, or even two launches in a weekend, so it’s kind of hard to believe that it’s been over a month since the last time a Falcon 9 broke atmo. That will change Sunday night though, when SpaceX launches the Telstar 18 Vantage satellite (Telstar 18V for short) into Geostationary Transfer Orbit from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
Night launches of the Falcon 9, like the one SpaceX plans this Sunday, can be visually quite spectacular. (Photo: Mike Killian via Space Coast Daily)
The upcoming launch, which is scheduled for September 9 at 11:28 PM EDT (03:28 UTC), will feature a brand new “Block 5” Falcon 9 that has never previously flown. SpaceX plans to recover the rocket’s first stage in the Atlantic Ocean aboard the drone ship Of Course I Still Love You.
The Telstar 18V is a communications satellite that will be shared between the Canadian company Telesat and Hong Kong’s APT Satellite Co. Ltd. According to Telesat, it is designed to aid communications from India and Pakistan all the way to Hawaii, and has a potential mission length of more than 15 years. SpaceX successfully launched the second satellite in this series in July of this year.
The most recent weather forecast from the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing shows 60% favorable conditions for Sunday night’s launch.
So, if you’re looking for an alternative to ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball (Astros at Red Sox, if you were wondering) or NBC’s Sunday Night Football (Bears at Packers, if you care), you can watch the prime time launch of Telstar 18V live online at spacex.com or the company’s YouTube channel. For those new fans out there, SpaceX typically begins its live webcast of launches approximately 20 minutes before liftoff.
Peace, love and rockets…