Iridium Communications has scheduled the launch of its next-generation global satellite constellation Iridium NEXT for Dec. 16 aboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket will carry 10 Iridium NEXT satellites to low-Earth orbit to replace an existing commercial satellite network in space, Iridium said Thursday.
The planned launch announcement follows the Federal Aviation Administration’s approval of SpaceX’s return to flight after the Elon Musk-owned company’s rocket exploded on Sept. 1 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.
“We’re excited to launch the first batch of our new satellite constellation… we are looking forward to the inaugural launch of Iridium NEXT, and what will begin a new chapter in our history,” said Matt Desch, CEO at Iridium.
Iridium worked with Thales Alenia Space to manufacture, assemble and test 81 Iridium NEXT satellites and 70 of them are slated for launch onboard the SpaceX rocket and subsequent deployment in 2018.
Iridium CertusSM, Iridium’s next-generation communications platform, will also provide higher throughputs across multiple industry verticals through Iridium NEXT and the service will go commercial in 2017 once testing is complete.