SpaceX launches Falcon 9 with commercial satellites

HAWTHORNE, Calif. (KABC) -- A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with a pair of U.S.-German science satellites and five commercial communications satellites blasted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base on Tuesday.

The rocket was successfully launched at 12:47 a.m. and headed toward the South Pole.

Its upper stage deployed the research satellites minutes after reaching orbit. The satellites for Iridium Communications' next-generation fleet were released in a process completed a little more than an hour after liftoff.

The Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment-Follow On mission, called GRACE-FO for short, will track movement of water across Earth.

"GRACE was really a revolutionary mission for us understanding the water cycle and how the climate behaves and the trends which are taking place over the last 10 or 15 years," Frank Webb, GRACE-FO project scientist, told a pre-launch press conference.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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