Iridium set to complete NEXT launchings

Malcolm Latarche
Malcolm Latarche
ShipInsight

07 January 2019


Iridium is set to wrap up its NEXT satellite deployment, with the last 10 satellites ready to launch on Tuesday 8 January, the company's CEO has said.

Matt Desch said the company will deploy the last of the next-generation satellites using SpaceX . A launch last summer brought the total number of NEXT satellites to 65, the new launch will bring full deployment of 75.

Elon Musk
The famous entrepreneur and SpaceX founder Elon Musk

Nine spare satellites remain to be launched but Iridium is in no hurry to rush deployment hoping instead to benefit from the decline in capital spending that follows full deployment and to pay down debt on the $3 billion Iridium Next constellation. Speaking to investors, Desch said, “We really like the idea of a capex holiday for 10 or more years but if there is an opportunity for a smart rideshare with someone else, then that could be a very cost-effective way to get those ground satellites into space.” The remaining satellites will be completed by next month.

Of the 75 satellites that will be orbiting if the launch this week goes as planned, nine are spares for the 66 satellite-constellation. This is already an increase over the initial planned six spares. Desch said the 65 Iridium Next satellites already in orbit are working “extremely well,” and that the baseline plan of nine spares should be sufficient to support the constellation for its full life.

The deployed Next satellites should enable 15 to 20 years of service and are built much hardier than the original constellation, which had numerous early failures when it launched in the late 1990s. Six of the original satellites are still in use but will be deorbited when the new satellites are operational.