A SpaceX Falcon 9v1.2FT Block 5 rocket successfully launched 10 Iridium next generation satellites from Vandeberg, California on 11 January 2018. The satellites carried were Iridium NEXT 68-77. The launch took place at 1531 GMT. The vehicle’s reusable first stage was successfully landed on the drone ship “Just Read the Instructions” located in the Pacific Ocean at 1539 GMT. The B1049 first stage recovered had flown before on the flight of the Telstar 18 Vantage in September 2018.

This new launch completed the new Iridium NEXT constellation of 66 satellites and nine spare satellites in its constellation – fully replacing the older Iridium constellation’s satellites most of which have now been deorbited.

The Starship hopper prototype appears to be made out of stainless steel. Courtesy: Elon Musk/Twitter

Meantime the SpaceX firm has revealed initial photographs of its new “test hopper” second stage prototype as an eventual BFS (Starship) rocket stage/spacecraft.  This will fly in Spring on “up and down” test flights.  A longer fully orbital version is due for launch in June. This will be single-stage-to-orbit capable – albeit with only a very small payload. It is more likely to be used as the upper stage of the main BFR booster.

However, not everything is going the firm’s way.  SpaceX has revealed for cost cutting reasons, plans to reduce its workforce by up to 10 per cent. This equates to a loss of about 600-700 jobs.