SpaceX launches rocket from California, deploys satellites

By Brooks Hays  |  Updated Dec. 23, 2017 at 9:16 AM
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Dec. 22 (UPI) -- SpaceX finished its busy 2017 launch schedule with a final blastoff from California.

The aerospace company's Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base around 8:30 p.m. ET on Friday.

The Falcon 9 rocket ended the year just as SpaceX began the year, delivering a 10-pack of communications satellites into low-Earth orbit for Iridium Communications.

SpaceX has helped Iridium amass an impressive constellation of satellites. The company's voice and data relay network is operating across 30 satellites. Soon it will be 40.

With SpaceX's continued assistance, Iridium aims to put a total of 75 satellites in space. The company has expanded services for its customers to include video and Internet capabilities alongside its standard offerings of phone, messaging and tracking applications.

Friday's launch was SpaceX's 18th, the most by any commercial launch company in a single year.

The launch also marked the fifth time the company has powered a mission with a previously used first- stage booster. In fact, the booster was last used to carry Iridium satellites into space.

"Falcon 9's first-stage booster for this mission previously launched 10 satellites to low-Earth orbit for Iridium in June of this year," the company announced on Twitter.

Friday evening's launch was streamed live on SpaceX's website.

SpaceX also has big plans for the beginning of 2017. The company is preparing to conduct its first test flight of the Falcon Heavy rocket in January. The "world's most powerful rocket" was built to eventually ferry crew and cargo between Earth and Mars.

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