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Falcon 9 launches from Vandenberg AFB

By Staff Sgt. Shane M. Phipps, 30th Space Wing Public Affairs / Published January 17, 2017

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AFNS) -- Members of Vandenberg Air Force Base, alongside SpaceX and Iridium partners, recently launched the Iridium NEXT satellite on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex-4, here, Jan. 14.

Iridium NEXT will replace the world's largest commercial satellite network of low-Earth orbit satellites in what will be one of the largest "tech upgrades" in history. With multiple organizations working toward the same goal of mission success, strong working relationships among organizations are paramount.

"The strong relationship that SpaceX has with the Air Force is incredibly important to shared mission success," said Lars Hoffman, the SpaceX senior director of government sales. "The SpaceX team is made stronger by our partnership with the Air Force. As one of two launch providers certified by the Air Force for national security space missions, SpaceX is greatly appreciative of the confidence that the Air Force has placed in us to support efforts to deliver critical national security payloads to space, and our strong partnership is essential in doing so."

Vandenberg Airmen agreed fostering strong relationships with all partners, including SpaceX, is critical in the launch business.

"SpaceX is a valued partner and we look forward to their continued success moving forward, beginning with this successful launch," said Lt. Col. Jarod Martin, the 1st Air and Space Test Squadron commander.

Col. J. Christopher Moss, the 30th Space Wing commander, acted as the launch decision authority and the Air Force supported and enabled the launch from start to finish.

"From launch scheduling to range support, SpaceX works closely with the Air Force on preparations for the execution of every mission," Hoffman said. "The Air Force also performs fleet surveillance as part of SpaceX's (Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle) certification."

Working closely with SpaceX during preparation of the launch, Vandenberg's 1st ASTS Airmen witnessed SpaceX personnel's dedication and determination firsthand.

"The tireless efforts of SpaceX culminated in a successful static fire on Jan. 5, demonstrating the F9-30 rocket's ability to put the Iridium-1 payload into orbit," said Capt. Nathan Snow, the 1st ASTS mission integrator for SpaceX. "The 1st ASTS launch team was highly motivated to support this launch."

Iridium has partnered with Thales Alenia Space for the manufacturing, assembly and testing of 81 Iridium NEXT satellites, at least 70 of which will be launched by SpaceX. The process of replacing the satellites one by one in a constellation of this size and scale has never been completed before.

"All launches are important to SpaceX," Hoffman said. "The payloads for this return-to-flight launch are the first 10 of at least 70 Iridium NEXT satellites that SpaceX will be launching for Iridium's next generation global satellite constellation by early 2018. As the world's only global satellite constellation reliably covering 100 percent of the Earth's surface, the implementation of the Iridium NEXT satellites will mark a significant achievement in mobile satellite communications, and SpaceX is looking forward to helping make it happen."

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