Hawthorne, Calif.-based firm SpaceX has launched five satellites for Iridium Communications along with two Earth observation spacecraft from NASA and the German Research Center for Geosciences as part of a ride-share agreement.
Iridium said Tuesday the launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base is the sixth out of eight Iridium NEXT deployment missions that SpaceX agreed to conduct for the Virginia-based company.
The recent deployment increased the number of Iridium NEXT satellites in space to 55.
Iridium CEO Matt Desch, a 2018 Wash100 awardee, stated that every completed mission pushes the company nearer to operating its new constellation in the drive toward what he calls “a new age of satellite connectivity.”
“When it comes to safety communications, especially for those operating in the skies or out at sea, having built-in network redundancy and resilience enabled by our satellite's crosslinks is paramount, especially during times of distress,” he added.
Iridium aims to replace its original network with 75 new satellites in orbit, 66 of which will serve as operational units and nine as on-orbit spares.
The Iridium NEXT constellation is designed to enable new services such as the Iridium Certus broadband service and Aireon's space-based Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast system.
The recent launch also increased the number of Aireon ADS-B payloads hosted on Iridium NEXT satellites in orbit to 55.
Aireon said it anticipates the system to go live in 2018 in support of real-time air traffic surveillance.