SpaceX lands rocket in harshest conditions to date and attempts to catch fairing

By Meghan Bartels
July 25, 2018, 11:11:16 AM EDT

SpaceX launched 10 Iridium satellites today (July 25) in the seventh and penultimate launch required to complete the communications company's new constellation.

The Falcon 9 rocket carrying the satellites took off from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base at 7:39 a.m. EDT (1139 GMT, 4:39 a.m. local time). The launch had a 1-second window because of the precision needed for the satellite insertion, company spokesperson John Insprucker said during the launch broadcast. The launch went smoothly, even though fog obscured the view of the rocket until after liftoff.

SpaceX hoped to complete two separate marine tasks in addition to the launch itself: landing the first stage of the rocket on the drone ship "Just Read the Instructions" and catching the rocket's fairing with a second boat, which, to date, no launch has accomplished. The company knew both boat maneuvers would be tricky today. "The weather in the Pacific is bad," Insprucker said. "We have choppy seas."

"[The conditions are] the worst that we've ever had for trying to get a first stage on the drone ship," he said later in the broadcast. Nevertheless, the company soon confirmed in a tweetthat the rocket successfully landed on the drone ship — despite some initial confusion due to a lack of lighting on the landing platform.

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