SpaceX launches NASA, Iridium satellites with used Falcon 9

GRACE-FO Launch

The Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base on California's central coast about 12:47 p.m. local time.

Groundwater, oceans, lakes, rivers and ice sheets will be monitored by the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On (GRACE-FO), a joint mission between the USA space agency and German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ). Iridium's five spacecraft separated one by one around 65 minutes into the mission.

The fairing recovery ship "came very close but not quite", he said on SpaceX's webcast. Tuesday's mission was conducted with an outgoing Block 4 version.

The first stage of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket was used previously for a launch in January.

On a sunny Tuesday afternoon in California, a SpaceX rocket roared into the sky with a duel payload on board.

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The fairings landing in the Pacific Ocean after deploying parachutes to slow their descent. The new rocket had its first successful launch May 11, when it carried Bangladesh's first geostationary communications satellite toward orbit. Lots of them. The payload included two NASA GRACE-FO satellites. The Falcon 9's first and second stages will separate seconds later. When complete, the Iridium NEXT constellation will include 75 satellites, with 66 being operational and nine spares. Second burn and Iridium orbit good.... Orbital ATK integrated the satellites at its Gilbert, Arizona, factory.

If you want to watch the launch live you can do so via the YouTube window embedded above. It is a successor to the original GRACE mission, also a U.S. When the mass on Earth changes, the distance between them does as well due to the changes in the gravitational pull. The result is a monthly map of the Earth's gravity field and gives clues as to how mass (normally water) is moving around the planet. GRACE stands for "Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment". "This is the science that we will be continuing with GRACE Follow On".

Once the Earth-facing satellite has put a safe distance between itself and its sibling, it will thrust back up into a higher orbit, so that one follows the other on the same trajectory.

"You can't manage it well until you can measure it. GRACE-FO provides a unique way to measure water in many of its phases, allowing us to manage water resources more effectively". Sensors on the spacecraft will be able to collect Global Positioning System radio occultation data for atmospheric sounding, similar to that provided by the U.S. -Taiwan COSMIC constellation and commercial satellites operated by Spire.

NASA has spent $430 million on the mission, and Germany has spent about $91 million.

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