A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifted off Tuesday with five communications satellites for Iridium’s commercial voice, data relay, and tracking network, and a pair of U.S.-German research craft to probe Earth’s climate and water cycle. Launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, occurred at 12:47 p.m. PDT (3:47 p.m. EDT; 1947 GMT).
A pair of European-built, NASA-backed research satellites set for launch Tuesday from California will extend 15 years of global gravity field measurements collected by the GRACE mission before it ended last year, supplying scientists with data to help track the melting of Earth’s ice sheets and chart the impacts of floods and droughts.
The launch of five commercial Iridium message relay satellites and a pair of U.S.-German orbiting geophysics probes on a Falcon 9 rocket from California has been delayed three days to May 22, and a week-long schedule slip to May 31 is expected for the next SpaceX flight from Cape Canaveral with an SES communications payload.
Ten more satellites for Iridium’s commercial communications network flew into orbit Friday aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, raising the total number of upgraded Iridium spacecraft launched to 50 and clearing the way for liftoff of a SpaceX supply ship Monday from Cape Canaveral to the International Space Station.