23 May 2018
Aerospace America reports that a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California deployed a pair of “NASA climate-change satellites into polar orbit on its way to deploying the next tranche of Iridium NEXT satellites” for the company’s “airline tracking service through a joint venture among Aireon, Nav Canada and other navigation services.” The Falcon 9’s first stage was repurposed from a January mission carrying the classified US Zuma payload, but the first stage was not recovered a second time. NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-on (GRACE-FO) satellites, developed with the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, successfully deployed 11 minutes after launch. GRACE-FO will “track the impacts of climate change” on terrain features such as “underground aquifers and ice-covered land masses.” Iridium’s satellites were released “over a span of seven minutes about an hour and five minutes after liftoff,” bringing the total of Iridium NEXT satellites in orbit to 55. Iridum plans 75 total Iridium NEXT satellite. (Image Credit: Aerospace America)
FulL Story (Aerospace America, By Amanda Miller and Tom Risen)