SpaceX successfully launches 10 Iridium satellites

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Capitalism in space: SpaceX today successfully launched ten 10 Iridium satellites.

This launch for Iridium reused a first stage from a previous Iridium launch. This was the first time Iridium launched with a used first stage. SpaceX did not try to recover the stage, which could be for several reasons, including the possible desire by the customer that they devote their entire effort to getting the satellites in orbit.

This was also SpaceX’s last launch for the year. The launch standings for the year now are thus:

29 United States
19 Russia
18 SpaceX
15 China

Sometime in the first week of 2018 I will post a full table showing this year’s launches plus the launch totals going back to the early 1980s. It reveals a great deal about the history of the launch industry for the past half century, as well as where that launch industry is likely heading in the coming half century.



  • Des

    The most likely explanation of why Spacex did not attempt a landing is that they are running out of space to store landed boosters because they have so successful in recovering first stages this year. Also, this is an older block 3 which has already flown and so far block 3 stages have only been reused once. The latest block 5 falcon 9 will be flying soon and it is designed to be refused up to 10 times without significant refurbishment.

  • Des: I think your analysis is right on the money. Thank you.

  • David Eastman

    There has also been speculation that given things like it being a block 3 as mentioned above, SpaceX is taking the opportunity to flight test some fairing recovery changes and perform other tests that use up the landing dV. It’s also apparently the case that the west coast landing barge was not available, being out of operation for maintenance.

  • BSJ

    Has anyone seen an explanation of what the first stage was doing after separation?

    The videos of it make me very curious! Was it just venting or making a lot of “crazy” maneuvers?

  • wayne

    This remains, Amazing-Stuff!
    They make it look easy!

    Forgive my failing memory;
    – How much do these satellite’s weigh & would they necessarily have had enough fuel in the 1st stage, to have landed it, if they had wanted to…?

    Interesting question.
    I assume it was doing it’s usual ‘get out of the way’ maneuvers. (?)

    >and…If you listen closely to the background cross-talk, one of the controllers is making calls on the 1st stage, all the way down, and it’s down by roughly the 8-9 minute mark.
    If I’m not totally mistaken, it sounds like the 1st stage did at least one burn. (?)
    >At the 6:48 mark (elapsed time) you can hear a background the controller say “..stage 1 entry startup, stage 1 burn,” and around the 7:15 mark, “..entry shutdown..”

  • Michael

    The first stage had grid fins mounted. If you listen to the background commentary you can hear the call out for the initiation and termination of the re-entry burn. About the time a call out out for the landing burn the controller said something but I was unable to make it out as the commentator was talking above him, but I did hear notification that the first stage had “landed”.

    The stage may have not been worth saving per say but I am speculating that either for practice or gathering experimental data SpaceX used the booster to the end — or they just plunked it down in a safe spot.

    It appears that in the end core B1036 died a noble death.

  • Michael

    Wayne — you beat me to it.

  • wayne

    Yes– I heard everything you did. Last call was stepped on by the on-screen announcer, but something like… ‘stage 1 ATF safed…,’ (around 7:45)

  • wayne

    Good stuff. > I did not know the barge was out of commission.

    good stuff. (You beat me–I’ve been fiddling around on this for 20 minutes!)
    >I had not noticed the grid-fins were on-board.

    (They should have landed it on the Baja peninsula, but then the Cartel would have their own rocket.)

    I guess a question is: for Federal tax purposes, how long can you depreciate a 1st stage?

  • Michael


    Your comment regarding the Cartel made my day — and the sun just came up.

    The question regarding depreciation is actually kind of interesting, specially when Block five comes on line. Reminds one that there is more to conquering space then conquering space.

    Anyway, hope everyone has a Merry Christmas.

  • wayne

    I aim to entertain!

    Depreciation, is a massive non-cash expense! (personally, I loved depreciating my car & home-office when I had a business.)

    Cursory (by no means exhaustive) search, yields:

    “Asset Category 37.2; Manufacture of Aerospace Products”– with a 7 year depreciation and a “10 year Class life.”
    (“Includes assets used in the manufacture and assembly of airborne vehicles and their component parts including hydraulic, pneumatic, electrical, and mechanical systems.”)
    –Although I’m unclear if that includes the finished product itself.

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