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SpaceX launches NASA satellites into orbit aboard used Falcon 9

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is seen with the NASA/German Research Centre for Geosciences GRACE Follow-On spacecraft.

NASA/Bill Ingalls

SpaceX is getting a lot of mileage out of its used rockets. The company successfully launched a used Falcon 9 on Tuesday from Vandenberg Air Force Base’s Space Launch Complex in California. The Iridium-6/GRACE-FO mission is all about satellites.

Lots of them. The payload includes two NASA GRACE-FO satellites. GRACE stands for “Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment.” The FO stands for “Follow-On” since the satellites are part of a continuing mission to monitor Earth’s water cycle.

SpaceX successfully deployed the NASA satellites as expected. SpaceX will also release five Iridium NEXT satellites into the wild as part of the telecom company’s campaign to replace the world’s largest commercial satellite network. SpaceX has signed up for a total of eight Iridium NEXT launches with the aim of putting 75 new satellites into orbit.

While SpaceX has previously recovered and reused the Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage, the company won’t be recycling that piece of equipment from this launch.

The same rocket that launched these satellites into orbit was previously used during the failed attempt to deploy the top-secret Zuma satellite, but SpaceX was cleared of any blame in that incident.

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