In Pictures: SpaceX Falcon 9 Launches NASA's GRACE-FO & Iridium Satellites

At the Launch Pad

Bill Ingalls/NASA

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying NASA's GRACE Follow-On Earth-observation satellites and five Iridium Next communications satellites stands atop Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on May 21, 2018. Liftoff is scheduled for May 22.


Iridium Communications Inc.

Technicians inspect the twin GRACE Follow-On satellites and their multisatellite dispenser at the SpaceX facility at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The satellites were subsequently stacked atop another satellite dispenser containing the five Iridium Next communications satellites they'll ride with to orbit.

A Satellite Cake?

Iridium Communications

NASA's twin GRACE Follow-On spacecraft (top) and five Iridium Next communications satellites are stacked like a cake before being loaded onto a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket for a May 22, 2018, launch into orbit from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Building GRACE-FO


The twin satellites for NASA's GRACE-FO mission are prepared for launch at the Astrotech Space Operations processing facility at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

Twins in Space


The Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) follow-on mission will use twin satellites to detect changes in water and ice around the globe.

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at:

Hanneke Weitering
Contributing expert

Hanneke Weitering is a multimedia journalist in the Pacific Northwest reporting on the future of aviation at and Aviation International News and was previously the Editor for Spaceflight and Astronomy news here at As an editor with over 10 years of experience in science journalism she has previously written for Scholastic Classroom Magazines, MedPage Today and The Joint Institute for Computational Sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. After studying physics at the University of Tennessee in her hometown of Knoxville, she earned her graduate degree in Science, Health and Environmental Reporting (SHERP) from New York University. Hanneke joined the team in 2016 as a staff writer and producer, covering topics including spaceflight and astronomy. She currently lives in Seattle, home of the Space Needle, with her cat and two snakes. In her spare time, Hanneke enjoys exploring the Rocky Mountains, basking in nature and looking for dark skies to gaze at the cosmos.