SpaceX has completed its 18th launch in 2017, marking a record year for the private space company. It’s the most rockets SpaceX has launched in a single year, beating its previous best by ten missions.
The launch today was for client Iridium, delivering 10 satellites to low Earth orbit for its Iridium NEXT communications constellation. This is the fourth such mission that SpaceX has flown for the company, and the rocket used for this mission was a flight proven Falcon 9 that previously flew in June for the second Iridium mission. Iridium was also the client for SpaceX’s first mission of 2017 back in January – its first flight following a pre-launch accident last September that cost it its rocket and the payload, a Facebook internet satellite.
SpaceX launched its rocket from its launch complex at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, and the mission parameters didn’t include attempting a rocket recovery of the first stage. The first stage underwent a landing sequence as it does when a recovery is attempted, but there was no drone landing ship in the Pacific Ocean to catch it when it touched down.
The launch resulted in some amazing visuals for residents of L.A. and the surrounding area, many of whom took to Twitter to share footage and pictures:
Iridium’s goal with its NEXT satellite constellation is to provide 100 percent coverage of the globe for tracking all flights in progress in real-time, and it will also be able to monitor every single ship traversing Earth via the same technology, making that info available for its commercial customers.
The next big milestone for SpaceX is coming up quickly: The company is hoping to launch its very first Falcon Heavy rocket in January, 2018. The rocket, which has a tremendous heavy load capacity, is already undergoing preparations for launch at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force base – preparations which include loading its payload, an original cherry red Tesla Roadster.