Stephen Clark writes the satellites are set for delivery to Vandenberg Air Force Base for fueling and mating with a SpaceX-built Falcon 9 rocket prior to the launch of initial satellites on Sept. 11, followed by a second launch in December.
The flight from Space Launch Complex 4-East will use Merlin engines and super-chilled propellants and SpaceX currently modifies the launch pad to support the Falcon 9 setting, according to the report.
Matt Desch, Iridium CEO, said the company’s purchase of 81 satellites represents about $2.2 billion of the program cost and that the use of seven Falcon 9 costs $492 million when the deal was inked in 2010 with SpaceX, according to the publication.
Iridium plans to complete assembly of one more spacecraft every week until 2017 after the company finished the first two of its mobile communications satellites in June, the report says.
Orbital ATK is responsible for the final assembly of the NEXT spacecraft under a contract with Thales Alenia Space, prime contractor of the program, Clark reports.