A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket roared through the predawn sky over the Lompoc Valley early Wednesday morning as it delivered the latest set of satellites into orbit for Iridium Communications.
The rocket fired off from its pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base's Space Launch Complex-4 shortly after 4:39 a.m. Although fog and cloud cover reduced visibility for many spectators around the Lompoc Valley, the rocket’s rumble resounded loudly over the region.
The launch was the seventh in the Iridium NEXT series, which began last year. Wednesday’s effort sent 10 satellites into orbit, bringing Iridium’s NEXT constellation to a total of 65 satellites.
"Successful deployment of 10 @IridiumComm NEXT satellites to low-Earth orbit confirmed," SpaceX tweeted about 70 minutes after the launch.
Iridium, which bills itself as the only mobile voice and data satellite communications network that spans the entire globe, plans to send a total of 75 NEXT satellites into orbit. The eighth and likely final launch in the series is tentatively scheduled for either August or September.
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.
SpaceX, as it has done in the past, was able to successfully land the rocket’s booster on a droneship in the Pacific Ocean "despite challenging weather conditions," the company tweeted. The booster will likely be reused for future launches.