SpaceX returns to flight, nails rocket landing

Space Explorations Technology Corp., or SpaceX, successfully launched 10 commercial satellites into space on Saturday via its Falcon 9 rocket-marking the company's first such launch since a disastrous accident four months ago threatened its future viability, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Liftoff from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California is targeted for around 10:22 a.m. PST/1:22 p.m. EST.

The FAA, which oversees commercial US space launches, oversaw SpaceX's investigation into why a Falcon 9 rocket burst into flames on a launch pad in Florida as it was being fueled for a routine, prelaunch test on September 1.

Following the launch, SpaceX also announced that the lower part of the rocket also successfully landed on a floating platform in the Pacific Ocean known as "Just Read the Instructions".

The triple success - launch, drone-ship landing and mission completion - was a relief and welcome start to the new year for the company.

The SpaceX rocket was briefly powered up on Thursday as part of a preflight engine test. In addition to commercial launches, SpaceX ferries supplies to the International Space Station and is developing a capsule capable of carrying astronauts to the station.

Because rockets are worth tens of millions of dollars, and they have historically been discarded after launch, mastering the landing is key to making space travel more affordable.

The $3 billion operation will replace 66 older satellites in order to improve mobile voice and data services for the maritime and aviation industries and allow the development of "new and innovative products and solutions" for Iridium's partners, according to Florida Today.

The first ten Iridium NEXT satellites were delivered to a 625 kilometer (km) temporary parking orbit where they will be tested and exercised by Iridium over the coming weeks.

"We are proud to be a part of this revolutionary satellite program", said Frank Culbertson, president of Orbital ATK's Space Systems Group.

Investigators are said to have blamed the explosion on a helium tank inside the craft's liquid oxygen tank failing.

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