SpaceX is preparing to launch their 13th Falcon 9 rocket this year. This mission, Iridium-7, is the 7th overall mission for customer Iridium Communications. This will be SpaceX’s third launch for Iridium this year! They’ll also be attempting to land the booster, AND recover the payload fairing! Which is super exciting!
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This launch will take place at Space Launch Complex 4E (SLC-4E) at the Vandenberg Air Force Base. It will be the first flight for this Falcon 9 block 5 rocket, core B1048, and the third flight overall for a Falcon 9 block 5.
SpaceX will be attempting to recover one, if not both, halves of the fairing. The area of the net was recently increased by a factor of four on the fairing recovery ship, Mr. Steven… which means there’s potential for a lot of hardware coming back to shore!
Despite coming only 50 meters away with their last attempt, they have yet to successfully catch one. Maybe this will be the one?
The Falcon 9 will lift off during an instantaneous launch window occurring at 11:39 UTC (4:39 AM PDT) on Wednesday, July 25th. A backup launch opportunity is available Thursday, July 26th at 11:33 UTC (4:33 AM PDT).
Static fire test of Falcon 9 complete— targeting July 25 launch of Iridium-7 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) July 21, 2018
SpaceX confirmed a successful static fire of the rocket in a tweet at 9:08 PM PDT on July 20th.
The 9 Merlin 1D engines on the first stage will burn for 2 minutes and 24 seconds. Separation of the first and second stages will occur 3 seconds after Main Engine Cutoff (MECO). The first stage will be recovered, landing on the west coast Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship (ASDS), Just Read the Instructions (JTRI). With the entry burn taking place 5 minutes and 39 seconds into flight and the landing burn occurring 1 minute and 38 seconds later.
Ignition of the second stage engine will occur at approximately 2 minutes and 29 seconds into flight, with fairing separation occurring 42 seconds later. Shutdown of the second stage engine (SECO) is expected to occur at 8 minutes and 33 seconds into flight, followed by 42 minute and 55-second coast phase. The second stage will reignite for a 9-second burn at 51 minutes and 28 seconds into flight.
The 10 Iridium Next satellites on board will be deployed into a low Earth polar orbit. The first satellite will be deployed 56 minutes and 38 seconds into flight. Deployments will continue at regular intervals until the tenth satellite is deployed 15 minutes later. They will circle the Earth at an altitude of 780 km and a speed of 27,360 km per hour. Completing an orbit every 1 hour and 40 minutes.
SpaceX has deployed 55 satellites for Iridium in six missions so far, dating back to Iridium-1 in January of 2017. With one more mission remaining, the Iridium Next constellation is nearing completion. It will consist of 66 operational satellites and 9 on-orbit spares. Orbital coverage is divided into 6 planes, with 11 satellites in each plane. The 10 satellites for this mission are destined for the fifth orbital plane.
The Iridium Next satellites were designed by ThalesAlenia Space and built by Northrup Grumman Innovation Systems, formerly Orbital ATK. Each satellite weighs approximately 860 kg and provides data and voice connectivity on land, at sea, and in the air.
There will be one more launch for Iridium this year, which will complete the Iridium Next constellation. It’s currently scheduled to occur in October.