SpaceX’s Pre-Flown Rocket Sends 4th Iridium NEXT Satellite Batch Into Orbit; Matt Desch Comments

Matt Desch

Iridium Communications’ fourth batch of 10 Iridium NEXT satellites took off Friday at 5:27 p.m. Pacific time from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California aboard SpaceX‘s Falcon 9 rocket.

The launch marks the first use of the rocket’s previously-flown first stage that SpaceX fielded in June to bring the second set of Iridium NEXT satellites into orbit and serves as the “midway point” of the satellite deployment effort between the two companies, Iridium said Friday.

“Today’s launch is an incredible milestone — we have officially reached the halfway point,” said Iridium CEO Matt Desch.

“We are excited to be taking part in SpaceX’s rocket reusability initiative and make history as the first company to reuse the same booster,” he added.

Desch noted that the testing phase for the Iridium Certus broadband service offering will continue “with over half of the new constellation now in orbit.”

Nine of the deployed satellites will head to their operational orbital plane, while one satellite will navigate to its adjacent orbital plane.

The $3 billion satellite constellation will also feature Aireon’s payload for aircraft surveillance and the Automatic Identification System payload from Harris and exactEarth designed to track ships.

SpaceX is set to perform four additional launches in the first half of 2018 that include a rideshare to deliver five Iridium satellites into orbit and twin satellites from NASA and the German Research Center for Geosciences in support of the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On mission.

Iridium launched its third batch of Iridium NEXT satellites into space aboard a Falcon 9 rocket in October.

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