Iridium NEXT is the company's $3 billion, next-generation, mobile, global satellite network scheduled for completion in 2018. It is set to replace the existing global constellation in what Iridium claims is one of the largest technology upgrades ever completed in space.
Iridium says not only did this fourth launch by SpaceX mark the midway point of the Iridium NEXT launch campaign, it is also the first Iridium NEXT launch to use a flight-proven Falcon 9 rocket.
“Since Friday’s deployment, the team has only positive news to report,” said Iridium chief operating officer Scott Smith.
“This testing process has been running smoothly and will continue for several weeks, after which nine of the new satellites will begin their individual ascents to an operational orbit, replacing original vehicles. We’ll also be sending the 10th satellite to an adjacent orbital plane where it will go into service by summer 2018.”
The Iridium constellation comprises of six polar orbiting planes, each containing 11 operational crosslinked satellites, for a total of 66 satellites in the active constellation.
Iridium says the “unique architecture” creates a web of coverage around the earth, enabling Iridium to provide real-time communications over the oceans and from even the most remote locations.
Four additional Iridium NEXT launches are scheduled for the first half of 2018, bringing Iridium’s total to 75 new satellites in orbit, including nine spares.