Iridium has reached an agreement with SpaceX to launch up to five of the company’s remaining reserve Earth satellites from Iridium NEXT, on its Falcon 9 rocket. Known as Iridium-9, the launch is scheduled to take place at SpaceX Vandenberg Space Force in mid-2023.
Iridium-9 will be Iridium’s second rideshare with SpaceX. SpaceX previously conducted eight Iridium launches between January 2017 and January 2019. These launches delivered 75 satellites to LEO as part of the Iridium NEXT campaign, replacing the company’s original satellite constellation.
Since the completion of the launch campaign in 2019, Iridium has 66 operational satellites, nine spares in orbit and an additional six spares on the ground. Up to five of those six ground-based spares are planned to be launched as part of Iridium-9. All satellites in the enhanced Iridium constellation were built by Thales Alenia Space and carry the Aireon hosted payload, which provides truly global, real-time surveillance of aircraft around the world.
“We’ve always said that when the right opportunity presented itself, we would launch many, if not all, of our remaining ground parts, and that opportunity arose,” says Iridium CEO Matt Desch.
“Our constellation is incredibly healthy. However, spare satellites are of no use to us on the ground. We build additional satellites as an insurance policy and with SpaceX’s stellar track record, we look forward to another successful launch, which will position us even better to replicate the longevity of our first constellation.”
Since the completion of the enhanced Iridium network in early 2019, Iridium’s customer base has grown by more than 730,000 subscribers in just three years and is more than 1.8 million today. With that surge in subscribers came several new Iridium products and services, including the Iridium Certus specialized broadband platform, Iridium’s global maritime distress and safety system, the Iridium Global Line of Sight service for autonomous and unmanned systems and more. of 150 new narrowband and specialized Iridium services.