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Five Satellites join Iridium Next Constellation

By | May 23, 2018
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Vandenberg Air Force Base

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base. Photo Credit: SpaceX

Iridium Communications successfully launched five Iridium Next satellites aboard the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California yesterday. The Iridium satellites were joined by the twin spacecraft for the NASA/German Research Center for Geosciences (GFZ) Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On (GRACE-FO) mission, in a unique “rideshare” launch. Shortly after deployment, Iridium confirmed successful communication with all five new satellites, formally bringing the total number of Iridium Next satellites in orbit to 55.

This leaves just two more launches of 10 satellites each to complete this launch program.  The Iridium Next constellation, featuring 66 interconnected Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites, is the company’s $3 billion, next-generation, mobile, global satellite network scheduled for completion this year to replace the existing network. Iridium Next will enable services such as the Aireon global aircraft tracking and surveillance system and its new broadband service, Iridium Certus.

Iridium Certus will be a global broadband service, providing reliable connections for the aviation, maritime, land-mobile and Internet of Things (IOT) industries, including essential safety services. Iridium Certus will bring users an upgraded infrastructure using Iridium’s resilient L-band spectrum, but with, reportedly, higher throughputs and faster speeds.

Yesterday’s launch delivered all five Iridium Next satellites to orbital plane six where they will immediately begin preparations for the pre-operational testing and validation processes. The network is comprised of six polar orbiting planes, each hosting 11 satellites, blanketing the earth with satellite connectivity.