Published: Tue, June 27, 2017
Science | By Nancy Frank

SpaceX rocket to launch from Vandenberg AFB on Sunday

SpaceX rocket to launch from Vandenberg AFB on Sunday

If successful, this weekend would put the company on pace for a record-smashing number of missions this year.

Here's what the historic weekend launches looked like. Within 49 hours the company launched and recovered two Falcon 9 first stages while putting it's customer's payloads safely into orbit.

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SpaceX's Falcon X takes off Sunday from Vandenberg Air Force Base in Southern California. SpaceX is now the only company to hold the record for most successful launches in a year. Bulgariasat-1 is the first geostationary communications satellite launched for Bulgaria.

The satellites will provide direct-to-home television and data communications to southeastern Europe and other parts of the continent as well, according to a press release from SpaceX. One of the most important goals of this project is to eliminate "black zones". Those satellites will be "slot swapped" into the operational constellation, replacing existing spacecraft, after several weeks of on-orbit tests and maneuvers. Friday's launch by SpaceX was also important for yet another reason.

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The company has successfully relaunched previously flown Falcon 9 first stages on two different occasions, and both missions have seemingly gone without a hitch. Then, the rocket landed on a similar drone ship in the Pacific Ocean.

The rocket flying today has a few neat features. In addition to the pad renovations, NASA and SpaceX also constructed a hangar type structure to store the rockets prior to launches. A pneumatic valve pushed the BulgariaSat launch back from Monday, June 19. All navigation equipment and engines performed as expected.

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On Sunday, SpaceX was at it again, this time with ten smaller satellites for Iridium's new constellation atop another Falcon 9 kitted out with what Musk called "larger & significantly upgraded hypersonic grid fins". Satellite operators and the Pentagon will be closely observing the demonstration flight. Shortly after the landing, though, Musk returned to Twitter to add that the rocket booster used "almost all of the emergency crush core", which helps soften the landing.

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