SpaceX set to launch satellites from California air base


On Friday, a Falcon 9 rocket that launched from Cape Canaveral carried a communications satellite for Bulgaria into orbit. In the process, it became the first booster to notch a launch from the West Coast and the East Coast.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 launch that was scheduled for Monday was delayed until Friday due to a valve replacement on the rocket, CEO Elon Musk said on Twitter. Moreover, it is in talks for contracts with US Air Force for its fly missions.

The rocket flying today has a few neat features.

The Falcon 9 rocket for the mission sported redesigned, larger titanium hypersonic grid fins created to withstand the heat of reentry without shielding and help guide the returning booster despite strong winds.

Now, the company has published images of this historic launch.

"Right now, it's two down with six more launches to go", Matt Desch, chief executive officer of Iridium, said in a statement. About three minutes after liftoff, when the rocket was about 42 miles from Earth, the booster detached from the upper-stage rocket and began descending. Then, it had to flip over and navigate down onto a droneship in the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Florida. It's the 12th time SpaceX has successfully landed one of these rocket stages out of 17 attempts, and the seventh time it's performed the feat at sea.

Sticking the landing Friday came as a bit of a surprise to Musk.

Mr Musk tweeted: "Rocket is extra toasty and hit the deck hard (used nearly all of the emergency crush core), but otherwise good".

This was the second-ever successful landing of a used rocket. The booster was previously used in a January mission.

SpaceX made history on Sunday (25 June) by successfully pulling off back-to-back Falcon 9 rocket launches and landings in roughly 48 hours. They're better for re-use, Musk noted, since they don't require additional refurbishment between uses. One of its most notable is to eliminate "black zones" where commercial airplanes can not be tracked by providing global real-time surveillance of all flights.