Iridium: 6th Batch of NEXT Satellites Functioning Nominally, Entering Testing Phase

The five Iridium Communications satellites that Hawthorne, Calif.-based firm SpaceX launched Tuesday have entered the testing and validation phase.

“Three of the [Iridium NEXT] satellites from this launch will be going directly in to service in our sixth orbital plane, where the other two will serve as spares,” Iridium Chief Operating Officer Scott Smith said in a statement published Thursday.

Smith added three of Iridium’s orbital planes will be completely comprised of Iridium NEXT satellites once testing on the five new spacecraft are finished.

SpaceX sent the latest batch of Iridium NEXT satellites to space along with two Earth observation orbiters from NASA and the German Research Center for Geosciences from a launch pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base under a ride-share agreement.

The launch increased the number of Iridium NEXT spacecraft in orbit to 55.

The second-generation Iridium constellation, which is scheduled for completion within the year, will occupy six polar orbital planes, each of which will contain 11 operational satellites.

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