Iridium Next gets underway
The much delayed launch of the first satellites in Iridium’s Next generation has finally taken place and ten satellites are now in orbit. The satellites were all delivered from the SpaceX launch that took place yesterday (Sunday 15 January). Over the next 18 months the remaining 62 satellites are scheduled for launch and will eventually replace the original network which is now some seven years into an extended lifespan. When complete, Iridium NEXT will enable a new broadband multi-service capability called Iridium CertusSM. The first 10 Iridium NEXT satellites are in a temporary parking orbit where they will be tested and validated before being moved into their operational orbit and begin providing service to Iridium’s customers. “This is one of the largest commercial satellite systems being built today,” said Iridium CEO Matt Desch. When Iridium signed with SpaceX in 2010 to launch 70 Iridium-NEXT satellites, valued at $492 million, it was the largest single launch deal ever engaged. Bringing Next into service is likely to enhance Iridium’s chances of being elevated to GMDSS service provider status as the first alternative to Inmarsat.