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SpaceX Successfully Launches Rocket With Payload of Satellites

SpaceX Successfully Launches Rocket With Payload of Satellites

SpaceX is live-streaming the launch, which is scheduled to begin at 12:54 p.m. ET.

An initial batch of 10 Iridium Communications satellites launched into space Saturday in the start of the McLean, Va. -based company's program to form its 81-strong, second-generation NEXT constellation for government and commercial customers around the world.

In addition to destroying the rocket itself - a Falcon 9, like the rocket being launched Saturday - last year's blast also obliterated a $200 million communications satellite.

In addition to successfully boosting its 10-satellite payload into orbit, the rocket made history by sticking its landing on a droneship in the Pacific Ocean, becoming the first ever successful boostback landing on the West Coast.

Weather forecaster now predict about a 60 percent chance of favorable conditions at launch time.

This is SpaceX's first mission since August, and the stakes are high.




Shortly afterward, the Federal Aviation Administration signed off on that investigation, approving the new licence for Saturday's launch.

The return to flight is an important step for SpaceX, billionaire Elon Musk's California-based company that has about 70 launches in line, worth more than $10 billion.

Topping the list is reusing the rocket stages like the one the company landed on its drone ship today.

The financials, which were detailed in the Wall Street Journal, outline how costly a launch setback is for the upstart rocket company.

Although SpaceX's most recent launch was a failure, the company has a pretty good track record. The first stage's nine Merlin 1D engines produce about 1.5 million pounds of thrust at sea level, ramping up to 1.7 million pounds of thrust in vacuum.The Falcon 9's nine Merlin 1D engines shut down. The company hopes to fly one of these returned or "flight-proven" rockets in 2017. In June 2015, a Falcon 9 broke apart shortly after launching the company's robotic Dragon cargo capsule on a resupply mission to the International Space Station for NASA. However, SpaceX's investigation of last September's mishap pushed back that timeline. This time another Falcon 9 rocket will be carrying Iridium NEXT satellites into space.

Tomorrow's launch is an opportunity for SpaceX to not only return to flight and restore confidence in the Falcon 9, but also carry out a complicated mission similar to what will be needed for its satellite-internet network.

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