SpaceX launches final batch of Iridium telecom satellites (and lands rocket)

A Space Exploration Technologies Falcon 9 rocket lifts off

SpaceX launched its first mission of 2019, fulfilling its Iridium contract, while the Falcon 9 due to loft the company's Crew Dragon demo mission remained resolutely attached to Florida.

At 10:31 a.m., EST today, SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket containing a batch of 10 satellites for longtime customer Iridium Communications Inc. from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

To watch the launch, check out www.spacex.com/webcast approximately a half hour before the expected launch.

The booster used on today's mission had previously launched the Telstar 18 VANTAGE satellite in September of past year, landing in the Atlantic on droneship "Of Course I Still Love You".

'There it is, right in the middle of the bullseye, ' said SpaceX commentator John Innsbrucker, as live images showed the first stage of the rocket standing upright on the droneship named 'Just Read the Instructions'.

NASA has promised a new date following coordination with the Eastern Range and International Space Station program.

SpaceX has been experimenting with techniques to recover the Falcon 9's nose cone and save millions of dollars in manufacturing costs, but no recovery attempt was made today.

This is the eighth and final launch for Iridium using SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket.

The new Iridium NEXT fleet will feature 66 operational satellites and nine on-orbit spares.

SpaceX has unveiled the test version of its eagerly-awaited Starship Hopper.

A Falcon 9 rocket launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base on Friday served as the grand finale for one of the largest tech upgrades in space history, including revolutionary change to the global air-traffic surveillance system.

"This is for suborbital VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) tests", Musk tweeted.

Alternatively astronauts could continue exploration and building further stations to set up a "planet-hopping" network.

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