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SpaceX Launches Final Batch of Iridium Next Satellites

By | January 14, 2019
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifting off on Jan. 11, carrying 10 Iridium Next satellites. Photo: SpaceX

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifting off on Jan. 11, carrying 10 Iridium Next satellites. Photo: SpaceX

SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base at 7:31 a.m. local time on Friday, delivering the final 10 Iridium Next Satellite to Low Earth Orbit (LEO). All 10 satellites have successfully communicated with the Iridium Satellite Network Operations Center. This was the eighth and final launch for Iridium’s launch campaign with SpaceX, seeing a total of 75 new satellites deployed over less than two years.

Iridium has invested approximately $3 billion to replace its original satellite system with a new network. Services provided will include Iridium Certus (providing L-band broadband connectivity), and the AireonSM aircraft surveillance system.

According to the release, the Iridium satellite constellation is the only communications network with pole-to-pole coverage of the entire planet. It is comprised of six polar orbiting planes, each containing 11 crosslinked satellites totaling 66 in the operational constellation, creating a web of coverage around the Earth. The 10 Iridium Next satellites launched as part of this final mission were deployed to orbital plane three. Since the launches began, the constellation has been undergoing a one-for-one replacement, new satellite for old, achieved through a highly choreographed in-space maneuver known as a “slot swap.”