Iridium Communications’ second batch of 10 Iridium NEXT satellites lifted off Sunday aboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California to join the initial batch of satellites that took off in January.
The launch brings the total number of Iridium NEXT satellites in space to 20 and marks the second of eight launches that SpaceX needs to carry out to deliver 75 satellites into low-Earth orbit, Iridium said Sunday.
“Our operations team is eagerly awaiting this new batch of satellites and is ready to begin the testing and validation process,” said Matt Desch, CEO of Iridium and an inductee into Executive Mosaic’s Wash100 for 2017.
“After several weeks of fine-tuning, the next set of ‘slot swaps’ will begin, bringing more Iridium NEXT satellites into operational service,” Desch added.
Thales Alenia Space and Iridium will conduct the on-orbit testing and validation phase.
The Iridium NEXT constellation will have 66 operational satellites in low-Earth orbit and 15 spares that include nine on-orbit and six on the ground.
The satellite constellation also aims to establish the infrastructure for Aireon’s system designed to provide aircraft surveillance and tracking service and Iridium Certus that works to offer L-band satellite broadband service.
Eight of the first 10 Iridium NEXT satellites started to deliver data and voice transmission services between March and mid-April, while five of the satellites in the second launch are expected to facilitate network deployment and ensure that 11 satellites are operational in their respective orbiting planes.
Thales Alenia Space serves as prime contractor on the development of Iridium NEXT satellites, while Orbital ATK performs integration work on the satellites through its Arizona-based manufacturing facility.