4th Iridium NEXT Satellite Batch Begins Testing, Validation Phase; Scott Smith Comments

Iridium Communications has started the testing and validation phase for the fourth batch of 10 Iridium NEXT satellites that launched Friday aboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9.

Scott Smith, chief operating officer at Iridium, said in a statement published Wednesday the company’s team at the satellite network operations center started to conduct initial diagnostics minutes after the deployment of the fourth set of satellites.

“This testing process has been running smoothly and will continue for several weeks, after which nine of the new satellites will begin their individual ascents to an operational orbit, replacing original vehicles,” Smith noted.

“We’ll also be sending the tenth satellite to an adjacent orbital plane where it will go into service by summer 2018,” he added.

The launch marks the halfway point of Iridium’s satellite deployment campaign and the first use of the rocket’s previously-flown first stage that SpaceX used in the second Iridium NEXT satellite launch in June.

SpaceX is scheduled to perform four more satellite launches for Iridium in the first half of 2018.

The Iridium NEXT constellation will have 66 operational satellites in six polar orbiting planes and nine spares.

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