Another delay for Iridium
Getting Iridium Next up and running is a frustrating process for the satellite communications company which is banking on getting the system in place in order to progress its path to a GMDSS provider. Delays to the launching of the satellites continues with news that today’s planned launch has been cancelled due to weather conditions. Launches were already behind schedule when last September’s fireball destruction of the SpaceX Falcon rocket occurred. That incident did not involve an Iridium satellite but it resulted in a complete shutdown of the SpaceX launch programme. Permission for a resumption of launches was given last week with today scheduled for a launch involving ten Iridium satellites. The latest delay could be considered a minor hiccup assuming the launch eventually takes place without incident, but any further problems could put the 2017 target date for the system in doubt. Today’s launch was to occur from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, and not Cape Canaveral, where the Falcon rocket failure occurred. Iridium contracted for a free relaunch from SpaceX if one of the launches fails, and the satellite-construction contract with Thales Alenia Space of France and Italy is for 81 satellites, leaving nine spares beyond the 72 satellites Iridium wants to launch for Iridium Next.