MCLEAN, Va. Iridium Communications Inc. (NASDAQ:IRDM) officials have partnered with SpaceX to set a date for the fourth Iridium NEXT satellite launch, which will mark the halfway point of the program in which Iridium is replacing its existing constellation by sending 75 Iridium NEXT satellites into space on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket over eight different launches. Officials have committed to the use of flight-proven first stages for the next two launches, supporting reusable space launch vehicles, or rockets, and sustainable access to space.
“I believe that reusability is the future for satellite launches, and I think SpaceX has intelligently built their Falcon 9 program around this strategy,” Iridium CEO Matt Desch says. “With three successful flight-proven Falcon 9 launches already this year, we’re excited to show leadership towards the sustainable access to space, while also making sure we maintain our cadence to complete the five remaining Iridium NEXT launches by the middle of next year.”
Iridium NEXT is the company’s $3 billion, next-generation, mobile, global satellite network scheduled for completion in 2018. Iridium NEXT will replace the company’s existing global constellation in one of the largest technology upgrades ever completed in space. It represents the evolution of critical communications infrastructure that governments and organizations worldwide rely upon to drive business, enable connectivity, empower disaster relief efforts and more. Iridium NEXT will enable and introduce new services like the company’s next-generation communications platform, Iridium Certus, and the Aireon space-based ADS-B aircraft surveillance and flight tracking network.
Iridium has reached agreement with SpaceX to utilize flight-proven first stages for the next two Iridium launches. Iridium conducted extensive due diligence work and is fully confident in the SpaceX booster refurbishment program. Iridium confirmed with its insurers that there is no increase in premium for the launch program as a result of the use of flight-proven Falcon 9 rockets, further supporting Iridium’s conclusion that the risk profile is unchanged.
The fourth Iridium NEXT launch has been targeted by SpaceX for December 22, 2017 at 5:26 p.m. PT [1:26 a.m. UTC on Dec. 23], from Vandenberg Air Force Base. This launch signifies the mid-way point of the Iridium NEXT launch program and will deliver another 10 satellites to orbit, bringing the total number deployed to 40. Targeted for just over two months after the third Iridium NEXT launch, this December date enables Iridium to maintain its planned cadence of completing all launches by mid-2018, even with SpaceX’s busy launch manifest.
To date, 30 Iridium NEXT satellites have been deployed, many of which are already providing service to customers. The new satellites are also now undergoing on-orbit testing for Iridium Certus, a major milestone on the path to introducing the company’s next generation broadband service. Iridium Certus will feature small form factor, cost-effective terminals and antennas, and ultimately offer the fastest L-band broadband solution available, supported by a truly global network.
Iridium’s mobile voice and data satellite communications network spans the entire globe, enabling connections between people, organizations, and assets to and from anywhere, in real time. Together with its ecosystem of partner companies, Iridium delivers an innovative and rich portfolio of reliable solutions for markets that require truly global communications. The company has a major development program underway for its next-generation network — Iridium NEXT. Iridium Communications Inc. is headquartered in McLean, Va.
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