10 new Iridium satellites delivered to orbit | AP business

An early-morning rocket launch traces an arc of light across the horizon

The next launch window was planned for Wednesday and then rescheduled for Friday.

The satellites were individually released from the upper stage of a Falcon 9 rocket that blasted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base on Friday morning.

Delivery of the satellites to create a second-generation communication constellation was expected to start 56 minutes after launch and be complete 1 hour and 12 minutes after blastoff.

Ten new satellites for Iridium Communications' global network have been successfully deployed in orbit after launch from California.

In an image made from the SpaceX webcast, a spacecraft deploys the final set of Iridium NEXT satellites into orbit, January 11, 2019.

While the Falcon 9 booster returned to Earth, the second stage and its payload pressed on to orbit.

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The last planned SpaceX rocket launch in December - not to be confused with United Launch Alliance's thwarted attempt to launch a Heavy IV Delta rocket - was delayed when SpaceX informed Iridium they needed extra time to prep for the launch.

The rocket lifted off at 7:31 a.m. Friday at Vandenberg Air Force Base and arced over the Pacific Ocean west of Los Angeles.

Minutes after liftoff, the first-stage booster separated and made an at-sea touchdown on a drone landing ship called "Just Read the Instructions", hundreds of miles out in the Pacific Ocean.

Taken together, the Iridium satellite deployments represent an ambitious project that SpaceX refers to as "one of the largest "tech upgrades" in space history".

If successful, Iridium will have a total of 75 new satellites in orbit, including nine spares.

The first Iridium satellites were launched in the 1990s to offer voice, data, fax and paging services to customers with Iridium handheld telephones and pagers.

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