Iridium has announced it has received a targeted launch date of mid-June for the second mission of ten Iridium NEXT satellites. Originally anticipated for mid-April of 2017, the date has shifted due to a backlog in SpaceX’s launch manifest as a result of last year’s September 1st anomaly. This second launch will deliver another ten Iridium NEXT satellites to low-Earth-orbit (LEO) on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. SpaceX is targeting six subsequent Iridium NEXT launches approximately every two months thereafter.
“After such a successful first launch, we are eager to maintain the momentum until our network is completed,” said Matt Desch, Chief Executive Officer at Iridium. “Even with this eight week shift, SpaceX’s targeted schedule completes our constellation in mid-2018.”
This announcement comes as Iridium has successfully connected the first Iridium NEXT satellite via its crosslinks into its global LEO constellation. The new satellite is expected to begin providing service to Iridium customers in the coming days. This marks a major milestone for the Iridium NEXT program as the testing and validation phase is ahead of schedule and the satellites are working well.
“Our team at our Satellite Network Operations Center has been working around-the-clock to confirm the health and performance of these new satellites,” said Scott Smith, Chief Operating Officer at Iridium. “Since their perfect orbit injection and deployment by SpaceX, our satellite testing process has progressed ahead of schedule, a testament to the rigorous development program they’ve undergone on the ground.”
The upcoming mid-June launch will mark the second mission of eight Iridium NEXT launches with SpaceX, including the recently announced satellite rideshare with NASA and GFZ’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-on mission (GRACE-FO). In total, Iridium currently has plans to launch 75 Iridium NEXT satellites – 66 to serve as operational satellites and nine as on-orbit spares.