SpaceX is about to launch 2 NASA satellites into orbit

SpaceX is about to launch 2 NASA satellites into orbit

SpaceX is about to launch 2 NASA satellites into orbit

The satellites are scientific tools that will allow NASA to carefully detect differences in the gravitation pull of Earth over certain areas.

SpaceX did not attempt to recover the Falcon 9's first stage. Iridium's Dnepr launch of two satellites was supposed to occur in 2015; GRACE-FO was to launch in 2017.

Today's the day for SpaceX's launch of Iridium's NEXT communications satellites and a pair of twin birds from NASA that will monitor the fresh water on the surface of the Earth.

The rocket, reusing a first stage booster that successfully launched Northrop Grumman's failed Zuma mission in January, took off from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, at 3:48 p.m.

SpaceX is getting a lot of mileage out of its used rockets.

The Block 5 is "a significant upgrade for the Falcon 9, with more thrust, all new fairings, and a new composite overwrap pressure vessel, among other changes", Cristina Chaplain, space systems director for the Government Accountability Office, said in an email.

"For the first few days after launch, the lower, faster satellite will pull slowly ahead of the other until the two satellites are approximately 137 miles apart - the optimal separation distance for science operations", NASA said in a mission update.

USA private space firm SpaceX launched two new Earth-observing satellites for NASA and five commercial communications satellites for Iridium on a used Falcon 9 rocket in a ride-share mission on 22 May.

SpaceX's mission also includes launching twin satellites for the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On, a joint project between the National Aeronautics & Space Administration and the German Research Centre for Geosciences. The rocket was a Block 4 version, designed for two to three reflights of the same first stage. Second burn and Iridium orbit good.... About 45 minutes after they deploy, it will make a second burn and take itself up to almost 500 miles altitude (this will take about half an hour), where Iridium's satellites will be let out, ending the mission.

The constant mapping of the gravity field reveals changes in Earth's ice sheets, aquifers, lakes and sea level.

If you want to watch the launch live you can do so via the YouTube window embedded above.

Once the Earth-facing satellite has put a safe distance between itself and its sibling, it will thrust back up into a higher orbit, so that one follows the other on the same trajectory. Scientists will use those variations, which change over time, to measure the movement of masses of water created by effects like the loss of ice in Antarctica and Greenland.

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