SpaceX has begun processing the fourth batch of 10 Iridium NEXT satellites at its west coast launch site at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California in preparation for the Dec. 22 launch aboard a pre-flown Falcon 9 rocket as part of its launch campaign with Iridium Communications.
Iridium said Tuesday the company and SpaceX are set to approach the “midway point” of their satellite deployment effort with the planned launch that will mark the first use of the rocket’s previously-flown first stage.
“We’re approaching our halfway point on this journey,” said Iridium CEO Matt Desch.
“This launch will bring us to 40 Iridium NEXT satellites in space, which is more than half the number required for a full Iridium NEXT operational constellation,” added Desch, an inductee into Executive Mosaic’s Wash100 for 2017.
Iridium launched its third batch of Iridium NEXT satellites into space aboard a Falcon 9 rocket in October.
The scheduled launch with a backup date of Dec. 23 will be the fourth of eight launches that SpaceX needs to perform to field a total of 75 Iridium NEXT satellites to orbit.
Iridium NEXT is a potential $3 billion program that seeks to replace an existing constellation of communications satellites and deliver services that include the Iridium Certus communications offering and Aireon’s automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast platform that will work to provide aircraft surveillance and tracking service.