Capitalism in space: SpaceX today successfully launched seven satellites, including two NASA science satellites and five Iridium communications satellites.
They did not attempt to recover the first stage, and though they tried to recover the rocket’s fairing it missed the ship and landed in the Pacific.
Intriguingly, all of these satellites were originally going to launch on a Russian/Ukrainian rocket.
Tuesday’s launch came about as a result of Russia’s Dnepr rocket becoming unavailable, in part due to the ongoing political situation in Ukraine. Grace Follow-On had been booked to fly aboard Dnepr, while Iridium had contracted for launches of the Russian vehicle to carry pairs of its spacecraft into orbit for testing, and later replenishment of its constellation. Early last year, Iridium and the GFZ – who are responsible for arranging GRACE’s ride to orbit – agreed to share a launch on SpaceX’s more powerful Falcon 9 rocket, splitting the costs while allowing the GRACE mission to continue and Iridium to get further satellites into orbit.
In other words, SpaceX has taken this business directly away from Russia.
The leaders in the 2018 launch standings:
In the national rankings, the U.S. is now in the lead with 16 total launches (including Orbital ATK’s Antares launch on Monday).
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