SpaceX launches 21 OneWeb and Iridium satellites, rocket lands in stunning video
Update for May 20: SpaceX to launch 21 satellites for OneWeb and Iridium today, Saturday 20 May at 09:16. EDT (1316 GMT) and you can watch it live in this free live stream. The mission will be launched from Space Launch Complex 4 East (SLC-4E) at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.
An attempt to launch the mission on Friday was aborted 55 seconds before liftoff. Our preview story is below.
SpaceX plans to launch its second mission in two days on Saturday morning (May 20), and you can watch the action live.
A Falcon 9 rocket topped with 21[ads1] satellites for the companies Iridium and OneWeb is scheduled to lift off from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California on Friday at 9:16 a.m. EDT (1316GMT; 6:16 a.m. local California time).
Watch it live here on Space.com, courtesy of SpaceX, or directly through the company. Coverage is expected to begin approximately 15 minutes prior to launch. An attempt to launch the mission on Friday was aborted 55 seconds before liftoff.
Related: 8 ways SpaceX has transformed space travel
If all goes according to plan, the Falcon 9’s first stage will return to Earth about nine minutes after liftoff. It will touch the SpaceX drone ship Of Course I Still Love You, which will be stationed in the Pacific Ocean.
It will be the 11th launch and landing for this particular booster, SpaceX said in a mission statement.
The rocket’s upper stage, meanwhile, will continue to carry the satellites – five belonging to Iridium and the other 16 to OneWeb – into low Earth orbit. They are scheduled to be deployed within about 30 minutes, starting about an hour after launch.
Fifteen of the OneWeb satellites will further expand the company’s broadband constellation in low Earth orbit. The 16th is a technology demonstrator known as JoeySat.
“JoeySat incorporates several new technologies, including a digital regenerative payload and demonstration of multi-beam electronically steered phased array antennas,” OneWeb wrote in a mission statement.
SpaceX has already launched three batches of OneWeb internet satellites, sending 40 spacecraft into the sky on each of the previous missions.
The five Iridium satellites are spare parts that will provide additional backup for the company’s 66 currently operational telecoms satellites. (Iridium already has nine additional satellites in orbit.)
“Our constellation is incredibly healthy, but the backup satellites are of no use to us on the ground,” Iridium CEO Matt Desch said in a statement in September 2022, when this SpaceX launch was announced.
“We built additional satellites as an insurance policy, and with SpaceX’s stellar performance, we look forward to another successful launch, which will position us even better to replicate the lifespan of our first constellation,” he added.
This launch will be the second in quick succession for SpaceX. The company also launched 22 of its own Starlink “V2 mini” Internet satellites from Florida’s Space Coast on Friday at 02:19 EDT (0619 GMT).
Mike Wall is the author of “Out there” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. follow us @Spacedotcomor on Facebook and Instagram.