SpaceX Eyes July for Iridium-7 Launch
SpaceX has confirmed that the seventh Iridium Next mission has been slated to take place on July 20 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The Falcon 9 rocket will launch 10 Iridium Next satellites to Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) at approximately 5:12 a.m. PDT (12:12 UTC).
All 10 satellites for this mission will be deployed to Iridium orbital plane number five where they will go into operation immediately following a testing and validation process. The Iridium network is comprised of six polar orbiting planes, each containing 11 operational crosslinked satellites, for a total of 66 satellites in the active constellation. Once all the satellites from the Iridium-7 mission are operational, plane 5 will be the fourth orbital plane to be comprised entirely of Iridium Next satellites. In total, 81 Iridium Next satellites are being built, with 66 in the operational constellation, nine serving as on-orbit spares, and six serving as ground spares.
Scheduled for completion in 2018, Next will replace the company’s first generation global constellation in one of the largest technology upgrades ever completed in space.