Iridium Selects Target Date for Second Launch of Iridium Next
Iridium Communications has announced a targeted launch date of mid-June for the second mission of 10 Iridium Next satellites. Originally anticipated for mid-April 2017, the date has shifted due to a backlog in SpaceX’s launch manifest as a result of last year’s anomaly on Sept. 1. This second launch will deliver another 10 Iridium Next satellites to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. SpaceX is targeting six subsequent Iridium Next launches approximately every two months thereafter.
“Even with this eight week shift, SpaceX’s targeted schedule completes our constellation in mid-2018,” said Matt Desch, chief executive officer at Iridium.
This announcement comes as Iridium has successfully connected the first Iridium Next satellite via its crosslinks into its global LEO constellation. The new satellite is expected to begin providing service to Iridium customers in the coming days. The testing and validation phase is ahead of schedule and, according to the company, the satellites are working well.
The upcoming mid-June launch will mark the second mission of eight Iridium Next launches with SpaceX, including the recently announced satellite rideshare with NASA and GFZ’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-on mission (GRACE-FO). In total, Iridium currently has plans to launch 75 Iridium Next satellites — 66 to serve as operational satellites and nine as on-orbit spares.