A recycled SpaceX rocket was sent back into space Friday in a spectacular launch from the California coast.
The Falcon 9 rocket, carrying several satellites, blasted off just after 7:13 a.m. PT Friday from the Vandenberg Air Force Base and soared over the Pacific Ocean. Cheers erupted at company headquarters as employees watched the launch live.
The launch was initially scheduled for Thursday, but a technical problem with one of the 10 communications satellites forced a delay.
The Hawthorne-based company's rocket is the same one used in an October mission. The first-stage booster returned to Earth after delivering its cargo to space, but SpaceX did not plan to recover it again this time.
However, the company did attempt to recover the rocket's fairing, or nose cone. SpaceX used a high-speed boat named "Mr. Steven" that had a net to catch the equipment. CEO Elon Musk described the net as "basically a giant catcher’s mitt welded on."
Musk, who previously noted that the fairing returns to Earth "about eight times the speed of sound," said Falcon 9's fairing came back into Earth's atmosphere just a little too hot.
"GPS guided parafoil twisted, so fairing impacted water at high speed. Air wake from fairing messing w parafoil steering. Doing helo drop tests in next few weeks to solve," Musk wrote about three hours after launch.
Falcon 9's payload was the fifth set of 10 Iridium NEXT satellites, which will replace a commercial satellite network in low-Earth orbit. SpaceX calls it one of the largest "tech upgrades" in history.
SpaceX confirmed a little more than an hour after launch that all 10 satellites successfully deployed into orbit.
The $3 billion project is scheduled for completion this year, with a total of 75 new satellites in orbit. Iridium, based in McLean, Virginia, provides mobile voice and data communications.
Another used Falcon 9 rocket is expected to launch a Dragon cargo ship to the International Space Station next week. That launch is scheduled for Tuesday from Florida's Cape Canaveral.