SpaceX launches ten Iridium NEXT satellites into space
SpaceX has launched a set of ten communication satellites into space from the launch site of Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, US, which will form part of the Iridium NEXT constellation.
The satellites were carried by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that successfully delivered the probes into the low-Earth orbit around one hour after the launch.
Iridium Communications are set to operate the satellites, which have been deployed to join the company’s Iridium NEXT constellation that also features 20 units already in orbit.
The latest launch included the third batch of Iridium NEXT satellites, which have been equipped with three notable capabilities: Iridium Certus L-band broadband service, Aireon’s space-based automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) hosted-payload, and Harris and exactEarth’s ship-tracking service.
The launch also represents the third mission to be carried out by SpaceX in support of the Iridium NEXT constellation.
Iridium Communications CEO Matt Desch said: “Each successful launch brings us one step closer to both a technological and financial transformation.
“One of our core strategies is to offer new services that are either flat out impossible or not easily replicated by more traditional ‘bent pipe’ and geostationary systems.
"Satellite Time and Location, Short Burst Data and Iridium PTT are just a few examples of global services only possible on our network.
“For us and our partners, Iridium NEXT is an engine for innovation, and services like these are just the start. Moreover, we're on track to completion in 2018.”
Iridium is currently planning to launch a total of 81 satellites under the Iridium NEXT constellation in order to replace and improve its existing network of interconnected, low-Earth orbit satellites.
A total of 75 of the satellites are expected to be launched by SpaceX.
Image: A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is carrying ten Iridium NEXT satellites into space. Photo: courtesy of Space Exploration Technologies Corp.