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SpaceX is now targeting Friday, Jan. 11, for its first launch of 2019 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, which would also be the base's first liftoff of the year.

The company is planning to launch a Falcon 9 rocket, carrying 10 satellites for Iridium Communications, at 7:31 a.m. from VAFB’s Space Launch Complex-4E. The mission, dubbed Iridium-8, is slated to be the eighth and final in the series of Iridium NEXT launches that began in January 2017.

The launch has been pushed back multiple times, most recently from its target date of Jan. 8. The new Friday target date was announced Tuesday night by SpaceX.

Matt Desch, the CEO of Iridium Communications, tweeted Monday that he was confident in the launch going off on Friday.

“Briefing from SpaceX makes me increasingly encouraged about a Friday launch,” Desch tweeted. “Weather in the morning doesn't look too bad right now, and the rocket should be ready.”

SpaceX reported Tuesday night that it was anticipating the weather to be 60-percent favorable for launch. A static fire test on the rocket was performed on Sunday.

If successfully placed into orbit, the 10 satellites will make a total of 75 for Iridium’s NEXT constellation.

According to Iridium, which bills itself as the only mobile voice and data satellite communications network that spans the entire globe, 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 NEXT is expected to enable new capabilities like global aircraft surveillance and tracking services, as well as a communications platform that the company anticipates will bring broadband speeds to remote locations of the globe.

The seventh launch in the Iridium NEXT series, all of which involved SpaceX rockets taking off from VAFB, occurred July 25, 2018.

In an unrelated matter, United Launch Alliance has not yet revealed a target date for its Delta IV Heavy rocket launch that is slated to carry a classified payload into orbit for the National Reconnaissance Office in a mission dubbed NROL-71. That launch, which is planned to take off from VAFB's Space Launch Complex-6, has been postponed multiple times since early December.

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

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