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14th January 2019

Iridium: Historic Iridium NEXT Satellite Launch Campaign A Success

On Friday 11th January 2019, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, and delivered the final 10 Iridium® NEXT satellites to low earth orbit (LEO). All 10 satellites have successfully communicated with the Iridium Satellite Network Operations Center and are preparing to undergo initial on-orbit testing. This was the eighth and final launch for Iridium’s historic launch campaign with SpaceX, seeing a total of 75 new satellites deployed over less than two years to complete the Iridium NEXT network ahead of the highly anticipated Iridium Certus service.

Iridium has invested approximately $3 billion to replace its original satellite system with a new, state-of-the-art network, which will host the highly anticipated Iridium Certus service. Iridium Certus will provide the world’s fastest and only truly global specialty L-band broadband connectivity, enabling highly mobile internet access using smaller and more cost-effective terminals.

The Iridium satellite constellation is unlike any other in orbit and is the only communications network with pole-to-pole coverage of the entire planet.  It is comprised of six polar orbiting planes, each containing 11 crosslinked satellites totalling 66 in the operational constellation, creating a web of coverage around the Earth. In total, 81 satellites are being built with 75 successfully launched. Nine of the satellites launched will serve as on-orbit spares, and the remaining six will be ground spares.  Since the launches began, the constellation has been undergoing a one-for-one replacement, new satellite for old, achieved through a highly choreographed in-space manoeuvre known as a “slot swap.”. To date, new satellites make up 60 of the 66 satellites in operation, with the final six scheduled for activation in the coming weeks.

Iridium CEO Matt Desch, said:

“There are few words to describe what it feels like to complete a vision started many years ago when I joined the company and what it means for Iridium and our future.  Our gratitude to SpaceX for helping bring this new generation of satellites to orbit, so flawlessly every time is beyond words.  However, for Iridium, we’re not quite across the finish line yet, as there is still some work to do to put these satellites into operation. Once that’s complete, our future will be in place.  I’m just incredibly proud of our team right now.”

Gwynne Shotwell, President and Chief Operating Officer at SpaceX, heralded the Iridium team:

 “It has been an honor to deliver 75 new Iridium NEXT satellites to orbit. Matt and the entire Iridium NEXT team have been incredible to work with. On behalf of all of our employees, congratulations to Iridium on achieving this incredible milestone.”

Iridium NEXT satellites were designed by Thales Alenia Space, which serves as system prime contractor, and are being integrated by Thales' subcontractor, Northrop Grumman.  The production process features an 18-station, state-of-the-art assembly line system for all 81 Iridium NEXT satellites being built. Iridium

Jean Loïc Galle, CEO of Thales Alenia Space, said:

“Totally deployed, Iridium NEXT is now arguably the world’s highest performance and most sophisticated constellation which represents today’s state of the art in terms of technology and flexibility and Thales Alenia Space is so proud for having risen to this huge challenge. I would like to thank Iridium for having placed its trust in us, and thank everybody at my company, at Iridium and at our partners for having worked as “One Team”, all with the sole objective of delivering the constellation to orbit as quickly as possible, while guaranteeing top-flight quality.

Satcom Global are an iridium Certus Maritime Global Launch Partner. For more information on the service please keep an eye on our website, or contact [email protected]




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Iridium Certus Maritime
There are few words to describe what it feels like to complete a vision started many years ago when I joined the company and what it means for Iridium and our future"
Iridium CEO Matt Desch