Iridium plans SpaceX launches through to satellite number 75
Iridium – which put its first new satellites into orbit last month – has confirmed that all its further launches will be handled by SpaceX through to early next year.
SpaceX launched 10 Iridium satellites in January, beginning the replacement of the original 20-year-old Motorola fleet, and will also handle flights two to eight, the companies have announced. The satellites will provide global data and voice communications services to carriers, aviation, enterprises and government organisations.
Flights one to seven – from January 2017 to early 2018 – will complete the operating fleet of 70 satellites. The eighth, a joint SpaceX flight with two other agencies, will see five spare satellites put into orbit to give the system extra resilience.
“This is a very smart way to get additional Iridium Next satellites into orbit,” said Iridium CEO Matt Desch. “We are pleased to be sharing a rocket with NASA and GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences for this additional SpaceX launch, and GFZ has been a great business partner throughout this process.”
It means Iridium will get 75 satellites in service “for not much more than we had planned originally to launch 72 satellites”, said Desch. “This launch provides added resiliency to our network.”
Iridium said that its Iridium Next fleet will “re-energise the mobile satellite industry with faster speeds and higher throughputs for all industry verticals.”