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Iridium completes launch of 10 new satellites

Satellite communications company Iridium says its newly launched fourth set of 10 NEXT satellites are functioning nominally and have begun the testing and validation process.

Iridium NEXT is the company's $3 billion, next-generation, mobile, global satellite network scheduled for completion in 2018. It is set to replace the existing global constellation in what Iridium claims is one of the largest technology upgrades ever completed in space.

Iridium says not only did this fourth launch by SpaceX mark the midway point of the Iridium NEXT launch campaign, it is also the first Iridium NEXT launch to use a flight-proven Falcon 9 rocket.  

“Since Friday’s deployment, the team has only positive news to report,” said Iridium chief operating officer Scott Smith.

“Similar to the first three launches, our team at the Satellite Network Operations Centre immediately began running initial diagnostics as soon as the newly deployed satellites were captured by our network, just minutes after they were deployed.  

“This testing process has been running smoothly and will continue for several weeks, after which nine of the new satellites will begin their individual ascents to an operational orbit, replacing original vehicles. We’ll also be sending the 10th satellite to an adjacent orbital plane where it will go into service by summer 2018.”

The Iridium constellation comprises of six polar orbiting planes, each containing 11 operational crosslinked satellites, for a total of 66 satellites in the active constellation.  

Iridium says the “unique architecture” creates a web of coverage around the earth, enabling Iridium to provide real-time communications over the oceans and from even the most remote locations.  

Four additional Iridium NEXT launches are scheduled for the first half of 2018, bringing Iridium’s total to 75 new satellites in orbit, including nine spares.

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

 

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