A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket streaked away from California early Friday, boosting the fifth set of 10 Iridium NEXT relay stations into orbit, the latest step in the satellite telephone provider’s push to complete a globe-spanning constellation of next-generation spacecraft.
Perched atop pad 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base northwest of Los Angeles, the Falcon 9’s previously flown first stage engines thundered to life at 7:13:51 a.m. PDT (GMT-8), quickly pushing the slender 129-foot-tall rocket away on a southerly trajectory over the Pacific Ocean.
While SpaceX frequently recovers booster stages after launch, the company said it did not intend to salvage the older-generation booster used Friday. Engineers did, however, plan to attempt recovery of the rocket’s nose cone fairing using a custom-built ship named “Mr. Steven.”