SpaceX launches 10 satellites, but $6 mn nose cone crashes

SpaceX Launch Postponed title

The satellites are owned by Virginia-based Iridium Communications, which is replacing its entire fleet.

- Morning commuters in Los Angeles could be treated to an aerial spectacle Friday when Hawthorne-based SpaceX tries to launch a series of communications satellites into orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base northwest of LA.

The Falcon 9 rocket being used for the launch was previously used in October for an Iridium satellite mission, and it was successfully recovered for re-use. SpaceX has ferried all of those satellites into orbit over 5 different missions, but even that isn't the most impressive part about today's launch.

The Iridium project, though less flamboyant, will replace the world's largest commercial satellite network of low-Earth orbit satellites in one of the largest "tech upgrades" in history, Iridium has said.

While SpaceX typically provides live video of its non-classified launches through payload separation, SpaceX ended Friday's video feed shortly before the rocket's second-stage engine stopped firing.

Matt Desch, CEO at Iridium posted a statement saying that the company has already crossed the mark of one million subscribers and counting just when SpaceX was preparing to launch the satellites into the orbit.

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SpaceX was chosen to launch a constellation of 75 satellites in eight missions. The mobile voice and data communications company's final launches of this $3 billion satellite replacement project are expected to happen by the end of 2018. Once complete, the constellation will consist of 66 active satellites, nine orbiting spares and six ground spares. SpaceX did not attempt to make another recovery of the rocket's first stage after Friday's launch.

The 229-foot-tall (70-meter) rocket lifted off at 7:13:51 a.m. PDT (10:13:51 a.m. EDT; 1413:51 GMT) from Space Launch Complex 4-East at Vandenberg.

The space company will attempt to catch the fairing - the bulbous nose cone on top of the rocket - using a high speed boat known as "Mr. Steven".

Elon Musk, SpaceX's founder and chief executive, said via Twitter that the air wake from the fairing's descent interfered with the steering on an attached parafoil.

Musk said SpaceX will conduct helicopter drop tests with payload fairings in the coming weeks to improve recovery efforts.

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