SpaceX Launches Third Batch of Iridium Next Satellites
SpaceX successfully delivered 10 additional Iridium Next satellites to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) approximately one hour after its Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Oct. 9. With two successful launches already completed this year, this third batch of 10 satellites brings the total number of Iridium Next satellites in orbit to 30, nearly half the amount required for a full Iridium Next operational constellation.
The Iridium Next constellation will enable three major capabilities: Iridium Certus, the company’s new L-band broadband service; Aireon’s space-based Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) hosted-payload, that will provide real-time tracking and surveillance of all ADS-B equipped aircraft globally; and Harris and exactEarth’s ship tracking service.
Iridium and SpaceX have partnered for a series of eight launches, seven deploying 10 Iridium Next satellites at a time and one deploying five. Thales Alenia Space is building a total of 81 satellites for Iridium, with 66 required for the constellation to be fully operational. A total of 75 satellites are currently planned for launch with nine of those serving as on-orbit spares and the remaining six as ground spares. Iridium expects the entire Next network to be completed by mid-2018.
“One of our core strategies is to offer new services that are either flat out impossible or not easily replicated by more traditional ‘bent pipe’ and geostationary systems. Iridium Satellite Time and Location (STL), Short Burst Data (SBD) and Push-to-Talk (PTT) are just a few examples of global services only possible on our network,” said Iridium Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Matt Desch.