SpaceX is flanking the weekend with two launches from opposite coasts, the first of which will take place this morning from California. A used Falcon 9 rocket is configured to launch 10 Iridium telecommunications satellites from the Vandenberg Air Base. And then SpaceX will do it all again with a Falcon 9 launch from Florida on Monday, sending supplies to the International Space Station.
The company will not recover its rocket today, but will try to capture part of the nose cone of the vehicle, the payload fairing that surrounds the satellites during launch. SpaceX has a ship called Mr. Steven (really) that is equipped with a giant net to catch the fairing when it falls to Earth. Once the rocket reaches the space, the fairing is broken into two pieces, each of which displays a material similar to a parachute known as a paraglider to brake. Mr. Steven will try to grab half of the fairing before it reaches the ocean. (Presumably, SpaceX will get another pot once it masters the process).
This will be SpaceX's second attempt to hook part of the payload fairing. The company tried the trick for the first time in February, but the nose cone piece barely missed the boat a few hundred meters. The CEO of SpaceX, Elon Musk, argued that the problem could be solved by making parafiles larger. This week, hawk-eyed SpaceX fans noticed that Mr. Steven was traveling to a special place in the Pacific Ocean to get in position for today's launch. And those who traced the whereabouts of the ship online yesterday discovered that Mr. Steven's final destination had been labeled "His mother's house."
As for the launch, SpaceX has done it many times before. The company has a contract to launch 75 of the following Iridium satellites in lower Earth orbit, to replace an existing constellation. Of these, 66 will form the main constellation NEXT, which will provide comprehensive telecommunications services to the US government. UU And commercial companies, while nine additional satellites will serve as backup copies in orbit. SpaceX has been launching these satellites in batches of 10, and this will be the fifth set to go into space. In fact, the same Falcon 9 rocket that was launched today was used to launch the third group of Iridium NEXT satellites in October.
SpaceX has an instant launch window for this mission set for 10:13 a.m. ET, so the rocket must go up at that exact moment or fly another day. The company has a backup release date set for Saturday at 10:08 a.m. ET. But so far, the weather seems to look good for a release today, according to Iridium general manager Matt Desch. The live broadcast of SpaceX will start about 15 minutes before takeoff. And do not worry, if you can not catch this mission today, just wait until Monday for the next release of Falcon 9.