SpaceX has successfully launched the fifth set of 10 Iridium Next satellites into orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
All 10 new satellites have successfully communicated with the Iridium Satellite Network Operations Centre and are preparing to begin testing.
Shortly before launch, the Iridium network met a major milestone as it surpassed 1-million active subscribers.
Paving the way for Iridium’s growth is the Internet of Things (IoT), where Iridium has established itself as the satellite network of choice to keep “things” connected beyond the limits of cellular coverage.
More than half of the subscribers on the Iridium network are IoT devices, delivering a wide variety of solutions by hundreds of licensed technology partners. These devices are designed to do everything from tracking endangered species and monitoring power lines to controlling shipping container temperature levels or serving as tsunami warning systems.
The Iridium NEXT satellite constellation is now more than half way completed. Once fully deployed later in 2018, the constellation will blanket the entire earth with its new capabilities like the Iridium Certus L-band broadband service and Aireon global aircraft surveillance and tracking.
“It’s a unique coincidence that we passed the one million subscribers mark right at this launch, and it’s particularly exciting because we’ve surpassed this milestone earlier than we had anticipated,” says Matt Desch, CEO of Iridium. “The new satellites and services we’re launching and continued strong subscriber growth are cementing our position as an industry leader and critical global communications platform and underscore the significant transformation we’ve undergone as a company over the last 10 years.”
To date, Iridium has completed five launches of 10 Iridium Next satellites, all with SpaceX from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. A total of eight Iridium Next launches are currently planned with SpaceX delivering a total of 75 new satellites to orbit. In total, 81 satellites are being built, with 66 in the operational constellation, nine serving as on-orbit spares and six as ground spares.
The first stage booster for the latest launch was previously flown during Iridium-3 in October 2017, making this the second Iridium Next launch to use a flight-proven Falcon 9 rocket. Each launch strategically delivers new satellites to specific orbital planes to ensure the earliest possible completion of the constellation.
The Iridium network is comprised of six polar orbiting planes, each containing 11 operational, crosslinked satellites, for a total of 66 in the active constellation. The 10 Iridium Next satellites launched today were successfully delivered to orbital plane one where they will replace first generation satellites over the next 30 days.