Relativity Space, a small launch startup aiming to fly its orbital rocket from Cape Canaveral for the first time next year, announced Wednesday it has signed a contract with Iridium for up to six launches of the company’s spare communications satellites. Relativity also announced it plans to develop a second launch pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California to allow for missions to polar orbits.
SpaceX kicked off its 2019 launch campaign with a mission Friday from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California carrying 10 more upgraded communications satellites into orbit to complete a refresh of Iridium’s voice and data relay network. Liftoff of the Falcon 9 rocket occurred at 7:31 a.m. PST (10:31 a.m. EST; 1531 GMT).
Firing through a veil of fog blanketing California’s Central Coast, a Falcon 9 launcher climbed into orbit Wednesday with 10 more satellites for Iridium’s voice and data relay constellation, pushing the upgraded network closer to completion as SpaceX accomplished another landing of the rocket’s first stage booster.
A Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base at 4:39 a.m. PDT (7:39 a.m. EDT; 1139 GMT) Wednesday, and SpaceX successfully landed the rocket’s first stage on a drone ship in the Pacific Ocean. The mission’s primary objective is the deployment of 10 Iridium Next communications satellites into low Earth orbit.