Rocket specialists SpaceX launch first mission of 2019

Spacecraft firm SpaceX has launched a Falcon 9 rocket into space in its first mission of 2019 – and its last for satellite company Iridium.

For the last two years, SpaceX has been sending its customer Iridium’s replacement communication satellites into orbit, as part of Iridium Next, a new global network costing three billion dollars.

Iridium-8 is the eighth and final mission for Iridium, launching at 10.31am ET (3.31pm GMT) from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

It is carrying ten satellites to join the other 65 that have been put into space at  since January 14, 2017.

The first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket lands on a drone ship in the Pacific Ocean (SpaceX/PA)

SpaceX also carried out its first successful rocket landing of the year, with the first stage of Falcon 9 touching down on an autonomous drone ship called ‘Just Read the Instructions’, in the Pacific Ocean.

The Elon Musk-founded aerospace firm carried out 18 missions in 2017, 21 in 2018 – a company record. It already has 39 lined up for the future, for a range of organisations including Nasa and Airbus.

Final deployment of Iridium’s 10 satellites is expected to take place about an hour after lift-off.

- Press Association

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