SpaceX successfully launched 10 new Iridium communications satellites into low-Earth orbit on Monday (9 October) from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 5:57AM PST. A few minutes after liftoff, SpaceX managed to nail the landing of the Falcon 9 rocket's first stage on the droneship named "Just Read the Instructions" in the Pacific Ocean.
The booster's landing about seven minutes after liftoff marks SpaceX's 17th successful recovery in 22 attempts.
The mission saw SpaceX carry the third set of 10 Iridium NEXT satellites to their targeted orbit as part of the Elon Musk-owned company's eight-flight contract with Iridium to lift a total of 75 satellites into orbit. The first seven will deploy 10 satellites at a time and one will deploy five.
In January, SpaceX delivered the first batch of 10 Iridium Next satellites in its first successful launch since the massive Falcon 9 explosion in September 2016. On 25 June, they launched the second batch during SpaceX's "weekend doubleheader" when it launched back-to-back Falcon 9 rocket launches and landings in just 48 hours.
The third launch brings the total number of Iridium Next satellites in orbit to 30, nearly half the number required for its complete operational constellation.
The fourth Iridium Next launch is scheduled for November.
"Each successful launch brings us one step closer to both a technological and financial transformation," Iridium CEO Matt Desch said in a statement. "One of our core strategies is to offer new services that are either flat out impossible or not easily replicated by more traditional 'bent pipe' and 'geostationary systems.'"
He added that the company is on track to complete its next-generation satellite constellation by 2018.
SpaceX said all 10 satellites were successfully deployed to low-Earth orbit about an hour after liftoff with Iridium acquiring "healthy signals" from each.