Deployment of the satellites began 59 minutes after liftoff and took about 15 minutes. The company had been grounded until now after Sept. 1 launch pad explosion, as it investigated the accident and worked to ensure that something similar doesn’t happen again. Iridium’s planned 70-spacecraft “NEXT” constellation will need other 60 satellites to be launched. This will replace Iridium’s current communications network, dramatically enhancing Iridium’s ability to meet the growing demand for global mobile communications on land, at sea and in the skies. This will be the world’s largest commercial satellite constellation when it’s up and running.
SpaceX needed this successful launch to reassure NASA, which is expecting the company to begin flying astronauts to the International Space Station next year. A dozen launches are planned in 2017.