A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying 10 Iridium Communications satellites has blasted off from California.
The rocket lifted off at 7:31 a.m. Friday at Vandenberg Air Force Base and arced over the Pacific Ocean west of Los Angeles.
SpaceX will try to land the Falcon’s first stage on an autonomous vessel floating in the ocean.
The payload is the eighth and final set of satellites to be launched as Iridium replaces its entire globe-circling fleet with next-generation orbiters. Deployment of the satellites is scheduled to be completed a little over an hour after liftoff.
Elon Musk-run SpaceX is aiming to raise around $250 million in new funding that would bring the rocket launch company’s valuation to $36 billion.
The fundraising comes as SpaceX continues development on three important programmes: Crew Dragon, Starlink and Starship, reports CNBC.
The company raised $1.33 billion during 2019 and has raised more than $3 billion in funding to date.
The new round of funding could close sometime in the middle of next month.
SpaceX has received a $3.1 billion contract award as part of NASA commercial crew programme. It charges its customers nearly $60 million per launch of one of its Falcon 9 rockets and had 13 such launches in 2019.
Ahead of its launch of astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard its Crew Dragon capsule which is tentatively scheduled for May 7, SpaceX has hired a top former human spaceflight expert.
In his new role, William Gerstenmaier, the former leader of NASA’s human spaceflight programme, is reporting to SpaceX Vice President of mission assurance Hans Koenigsmann.
SpaceX is preparing its Crew Dragon spacecraft to fly NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken to and from the space station in the first flight. The uncrewed Demo-1 mission flew in March last year.
“We’re highly confident that the hardware will be ready in Q1, most likely at the end of February but no later than March. And we think it appears probable that the first crewed launch would occur in the second quarter,” said Musk after the successful uncrewed test of its Crew Dragon capsule’s in-flight launch escape capabilities last month.