Falcon launch (copy)

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with 10 Iridium NEXT communications satellites lifts off from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base on Jan. 14. The base is set to host another launch in the Iridium mission on Dec. 22. 

Contributed photo by Joe Davila, USAF

Vandenberg Air Force Base will aim to close out 2017 a lot like it began the year — with a successful launch of 10 satellites into orbit for Iridium Communications.

The base is slated to host its final launch of the year at 5:27 p.m. Dec. 22, which is when a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will attempt to carry the satellites into orbit. This will be the fourth Iridium satellite mission from the base this year, continuing a string of launches that began Jan. 14, which was historic in that it was the first time SpaceX was able to successfully land a rocket booster on the West Coast.

Col. Michael S. Hough, the 30th Space Wing commander at VAFB, will be the space launch commander.

“Team Vandenberg is excited to begin and end 2017 with Falcon 9 launches,” Hough said. “We take our mission of providing assured access to space seriously and we've diligently worked with our SpaceX mission partners to ensure a safe and successful launch.”

According to Iridium, the NEXT satellites will replace the world's largest commercial network of low-Earth orbit satellites in what will be one of the largest "tech upgrades" in history.

Iridium, which bills itself as the only mobile voice and data satellite communications network that spans the entire globe, partnered with Thales Alenia Space for the manufacturing, assembly and testing of the 81 Iridium NEXT satellites, at least 75 of which are slated to be carried into orbit by SpaceX over a span of eight total launches.

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All the satellites are scheduled to be deployed by 2018, according to Iridium.

The second SpaceX launch of Iridium satellites from VAFB this year took place June 25, and the third launch was Oct. 9.

Because of the launch time, the Hawk's Nest on Highway 1 south of VAFB's main gate will not be open, according to base officials.

Willis Jacobson covers the city of Lompoc for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @WJacobsonLR.

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