Two launches, 14 spacecraft: Falcon 9 and Ariane 5 fly

There were two launches in the early hours today: a Falcon 9 out of Vandenberg AFB and an Ariane V out of Kourou, French Guiana.

The Falcon 9 delivered 10 Iridium NEXT satellites into orbit.  The first stage landed on the barge Just Read The Instructions.  The ship Mr Steven attempted to catch one of the two payload fairing sections, but again was unsuccessful, with relatively high wind shear believed to be a contributing factor.  All ten spacecraft were deployed properly and appear to be healthy.  Unfortunately for those of us viewing at home, the notorious sea fog of Southern California rolled in before liftoff.  But the rocketcam views were all great at least!

 

Then Ariane 5 departed from Kourou, carrying the next four elements of the Galileo satellite navigation constellation to orbit.  When complete, Galileo will supplement GPS and GLONASS, and also provide a domestic navigation capability for users in the European Union in the event access to GPS or GLONASS is no longer available.  This was the final flight of the Ariane 5 ES configuration, with a hypergolic upper stage.  The Ariane ECA configuration, which is popular with commercial customers, uses a cryogenic upper stage that can only be relit once in orbit; this makes it suitable for large commsats and duplex launches, but not for more complex multi-payload launches such as this one, which requires multiple restarts.  Ariane 5 will not perform any further Galileo launches; the next launches are expected in 2020 and will use the Ariane 6.  The weather on the coast of French Guiana was unusually clear, so this one has some wonderful ascent ground photography.

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