SpaceX is launching its next mission for client Iridium this morning, with an instantaneous launch window for the mission opening at 7:13 AM PDT (10:13 AM EDT). The Iridium -5 mission will take off from SLC-4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, and there’s a backup window set for March 31 at 7:08 AM PDT (10:08 AM EDT).
The mission will carry a fifth set of 10 satellites to low-Earth orbit designed for inclusion in Iridium’s NEXT global commercial satellite network. Iridium’s NEXT mission is what it terms one of the most ambitious and biggest “tech upgrades” in history, as it replaces satellites in its own existing constellation one-by-one with upgraded models.
The Falcon 9 first stage booster used for this mission is a flight-proven one that previously flew during the Iridium-3 mission last October, when the third set of 10 satellites went up for Iridium. SpaceX won’t be attempting to recover the booster a second time following this launch.
SpaceX will also try again to recover the fairing used for this launch. The nosecone fairing protects the cargo from the pressures and stresses of atmospheric launch, and SpaceX has recently begun attempting to catch this component upon its return to Earth with a larger, claw-like barge called Mr Steven. Mr. Steven’s current destination as logged with marine traffic monitoring services is literally “YOUR MOMSHOUSE” which is I guess supposed to be a hilarious joke.
Recovering the fairing will enable even greater cost savings for Musk’s reusable rocket launches, and potentially decrease time required between launches, too.
The live broadcast for the launch should begin above around 15 minutes prior to the launch window, or at just before 7 AM PDT (10 AM EDT).