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SpaceX makes successful rocket launch

Musk's merry men manage it this time

By Gareth Corfield, 16 Jan 2017

Elon Musk's SpaceX, space cargo contractor and purveyor of space rockets for the well-heeled masses, successfully launched a two-stage rocket into orbit on Saturday.

The rocket lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 9:54am local time, carrying a satellite payload on behalf of Iridium Communications.

Ten minutes after the rocket took off, its first stage booster unit was jettisoned and safely recovered in the upright position on a so-called “droneship” in the Pacific.

The launch is an important milestone for the company, whose reputation was hit by a test-refuelling failure on 1 September last year. In that instance a SpaceX rocket blew up on the launchpad, incinerating a Facebook satellite.

Investigators are said to have blamed the explosion on a helium tank inside the craft’s liquid oxygen tank failing.

Iridium plans another nine satellite launches – all via Musk's space-trucking kit – in order to replace its existing satellite constellations, which provide voice and data communications. Each launch will carry 10 satellites. ®

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