Tuesday, May 22, 2018

SpaceX launches 5 Iridium NEXT satellites, 2 GRACE-FO satellites

SpaceX successfully launched five Iridium NEXT satellites and two GRACE-FO satellites from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. The launch used the Falcon 9 rocket.

Falcon 9’s first stage for this mission was previously used in January for the Zuma mission from Cape Canaveral in Florida. After today's launch, SpaceX did not attempt to recover the first stage again.

The Iridium NEXT project is replacing the replacing all of the company's satellites with new ones for enabling next-generation broadband for specialized applications, like safety services, data and communications, remote monitoring, tracking, etc. This was the sixth of eight launch missions by SpaceX for Iridium NEXT. In total, 81 satellites are being built, with 66 in the operational constellation, nine serving as on-orbit spares and six as ground spares.

The two Geosciences (GFZ) GRACE Follow-On (GRACE-FO) satellites belong to the NASA/German Research Centre. As the twin satellites fly over
areas of higher and lower mass, the distance between them changes slightly due to gravitational forces. By precisely measuring these changes, the distribution of Earth’s mass can be mapped monthly and tracked over time. This data can be used to monitor changes in ice sheets and glaciers, underground water storage, water in large lakes and rivers, and sea level, providing a unique view of Earth’s evolving climate and its water and energy cycles, with far-reaching societal benefits

See also