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First of Falcon Rocket’s Double-Header Flies From Florida; Vandenberg Launch Still Set for Sunday

Favorable weather on tap for Iridium Next satellites launch at Air Force Base

A screenshot from the webcast shows the Falcon 9 rocket carrying BulgariaSat-1 from Florida on Friday, marking the second flight of the year for the first-stage booster which lifted the first 10 Iridium Next satellites into orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base.
A screenshot from the webcast shows the Falcon 9 rocket carrying BulgariaSat-1 from Florida on Friday, marking the second flight of the year for the first-stage booster which lifted the first 10 Iridium Next satellites into orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base. (Courtesy photo)

The first Falcon 9 rocket among two planned flights within three days blasted off Friday afternoon from Florida for a mission with unique ties to a planned Sunday launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base.

The Space Exploration Technologies Falcon 9 rocket launch lifted off after noon (PDT) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, successfully delivering BulgariaSat-1 into orbit.

That flight featured a recycled first-stage for a Falcon rocket that first flew earlier this year from Vandenberg, carrying the initial set of Iridium Next communication satellites and returned to safely land on a droneship in the Pacific Ocean for future reuse.

Once done with its Florida mission, the first-stage motor safely landed on a droneship in the Atlantic Ocean, becoming the first time a Falcon has successfully landed following blastoffs from both coasts.

The Florida launch came two days before the second set of Iridium Next global communication satellites, numbers 11 through 20, are set to head to space on a different Falcon 9 rocket for what SpaceX called a double-header.

Liftoff is planned at 1:25 p.m. Sunday from Space Launch Complex-4 on Vandenberg's South Base, a facility visible on the horizon while looking south of Ocean Avenue (Highway 246).

Conditions will accommodate the planned launch from Vandenberg, according a launch weather forecast, which calls for “low shallow stratus and fog through the count.”

According to the forecast, “By T-0, the marine layer will have broken out, the stratus will be clearing out and visibility restrictions lifted.” The forecast cites zero concerns conditions will interfere with launch attempt.

Once the satellites are en route to space, Falcon's manufacturer also plans to try to land the first-stage on a droneship in the Pacific Ocean, south of Vandenberg.

The Vandenberg launch has just one chance a day to get off the ground to place the satellites where they need to be in space.

A public viewing site will be located at the Hawk’s Nest off Highway 1, between Vandenberg’s Main Gate and Lompoc.

On-base viewing, for those with regular base access, will be at 35th Street and New Beach Boulevard. 

Other off-base viewing sites include near the intersection of Floradale and Ocean Avenues, the peak of Harris Grade Road, and intersections of Moonglow and Stardust roads in Vandenberg Village.

For safety reasons related to the launch, Jalama Beach County Park will be evacuated from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday.

Surf Beach and Ocean Beach County Park, at the west end of Ocean Avenue, also are expected to be closed for several hours Sunday because of the launch which falls on the final day of the 65th annual Lompoc Valley Flower Festival.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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