Falcon 9 Orbits Iridium-NEXT, GRACE-FO Satellites

The NASA/German Research Centre for Geosciences GRACE Follow-On spacecraft launch onboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, Tuesday, May 22, 2018, from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

A SpaceX Falcon 9 booster blasted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base on Tuesday afternoon and successfully orbited seven satellites.

There were five Iridium-NEXT communications satellites aboard. These were the 51st through 56th Iridium-NEXT spacecraft orbited by Falcon 9 boosters.

A pair of Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On (GRACE-FO) satellites were also onboard. The spacecraft will measure changes in how mass is redistributed within and among Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, land and ice sheets, as well as within Earth itself.

The mission is a join collaboration of NASA and the German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ).  GFZ reports receiving signals from both GRACE-FO satellites.

  • duheagle

    And once Starlink and the other LEO constellations are up, those same slumdogs will have flat panel phased-array antennas.

  • duheagle

    If what Jeff2Space said is true, it would seem that VSAT dishes – which cost the same or more – are already within the means of a lot of slumdog non-millionaires.

  • Michael Halpern

    Eventually sure but they will be more expensive to build at least initially

  • Michael Halpern

    Time wise its closest but energetically, there are closer sources

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    space based solar is collectors in space then re-beamed and re-collected on Earth, as opposed to LEO factories/stations using “in space” solar.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    Agreed, but that’s “in space” solar rather than “space based” solar.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    Not saying that broadcast TV will die overnight – it will certainly persist for a while, and more in some markets than others. However, when enough of a market base is served by sufficiently high bandwidth internet (fibre and/or 5G and/or LEO) then a stream only model becomes viable. Our changing cultural habits and a generational familiarity with internet content delivery will also be an increasingly influential factor.

  • redneck

    Which brings the trades back to launch cost in regards to vehicle costs with reuse or expendable factored in. If you are getting one use out of a vehicle and the launch cost of propellant is a major item, then the NEOs that you refer to are a a very good bet. If the vehicle can make multiple trips from LEO to destination and back with propellant being a minor item, then the moon is a better bet.

    There are many variables in the choices. What is being sought and where is the best source. Pure industrial grade ore from an asteroid is likely a better mining option than parts per million on the moon. If concentrations are similar, then transportation costs become more important. Then trades shift more toward toward a high reuse architecture.

    IMO, the design of the industry needs to be done the same way a building is structurally designed. Start with the roof live and dead loads. Add that mass to the top story structural loads and keep going adding all loads from each floor until reaching the foundation which is then designed to transfer everything above to bear on the ground. The foundation is designed last.

    The space industry needs to start with who wants what that they are willing to pay for. Then locate that what taking into account concentrations, distance in time and energy, industry state of the art for those types of extraction, and cost of the various approaches to delivering that what to the customer. Neglecting the time value of money is not an option for the commercial side. Then the destination and type of craft can be chosen.

  • Michael Halpern

    Energetically even Mars is closer… Not by much but enough

  • redneck

    True. So the type of available transportation becomes the driver. If IMLEO remains the controlling factor Mars is a more viable destination, especially with one use and done craft. I believe that the moon will become higher priority as in-space reuse evolves, and propellant FOB LEO become less expensive. Unless I get a chance to put skin in the game, I have a wait and see attitude.

  • Michael Halpern

    of course Mars has better fuel potential, argon, methalox and hydrolox and good quantities,as opposed to maybe drops of hydrolox from the moon