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Iridium and OneWeb Confirm Success Post SpaceX Launch 

By Rachel Jewett | May 22, 2023

      SpaceX launches dual mission for Iridium and OneWeb. Photo: SpaceX via Iridium

      SpaceX’s Saturday launch lofted satellites for both Iridium and OneWeb. The mission deployed five spare satellites for Iridium’s Low-Earth Orbit constellation, and 19 more OneWeb satellites. 

      Both operators confirmed post-launch that the mission was successful. The Falcon 9 mission took off from Vandenberg Space Force Base on the West Coast at 6:16 a.m. PT on May 20. 

      With this launch, Iridium now has 14 spare satellites in orbit to provide redundancy for its next-generation constellation which was completed in 2019. There are 66 satellites in the constellation, plus 14 on-orbit spares, and 1 spare that has not been launched.  

      Iridium’s upgraded constellation has enabled services like the operator’s Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS), Iridium Certus, and a recent collaboration with Qualcomm to enable satellite direct-to-cell service. 

      “The completion of our upgraded constellation was a major milestone in the history of Iridium.  We committed to our partners and our customers that they could depend on us and expect the highest quality of service and reliability anywhere on the planet, and that’s what we’ve delivered,” said Matt Desch, CEO, Iridium. “With all the new products and services enabled by our network, the launch of these spares shows our commitment to maintaining the gold standard of satellite network services.”

      For OneWeb, the 16 satellites will provide increased resilience and redundancy as the company prepares to offer global services this year. OneWeb now has 634 satellites on orbit. 

      OneWeb’s satellites also included the “JoeySat,” with a digital beam-hopping payload designed by SatixFy. The satellite was developed through the European Space Agency and UK Space Agency, via the Sunrise Partnership. The satellite is designed to remotely direct and boost its beams to focus coverage on high-usage areas to address network demand. 

      “Our solution enables the fine-tuning and steering of bandwidth to the location of bandwidth-demand via our software defined on-board processors, digital beamforming and hopping antennas. We believe this has the potential to be a game-changer for the future of resilient multi-orbit satellite communication and are very excited as this nascent market continues to grow and develop,” commented Charlie Bloomfield, CEO of SatixFy Space Systems, a U.K. subsidiary of the company.