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NEWS
Successful Second Launch of Iridium® NEXT Satellites Announced
June 28, 2017

Iridium Communications Inc. announced the recent successful second launch of its next-generation network, Iridium NEXT. This payload of 10 satellites was deployed into low-Earth orbit, approximately one hour after a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. With this launch complete, there are now 20 Iridium NEXT satellites in orbit, establishing the infrastructure for groundbreaking technologies such as Iridium Certus SM and Aireon’s space-based Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) aircraft tracking and surveillance service. Iridium Certus is poised to disrupt industry norms by enabling truly global L-band satellite broadband speeds through smaller, more cost-effective antennas.

Among the many technologies enabled by Iridium NEXT is a unique hosted payload from Iridium’s partner, Aireon, which will provide a real-time, global aircraft surveillance and tracking service. Today, air traffic controllers and aircraft operators face the problem of being unable to see the location of aircraft at all times, worldwide. This is largely due to the lack of aircraft tracking infrastructure on the ground in remote regions and over the oceans. The AireonSM system is designed to solve this problem. To date, more than one billion aircraft position reports have been received by the first eight operational Aireon payloads, activated after the first Iridium NEXT launch this past January.

Through a series of eight launches, SpaceX will deliver 75 Iridium NEXT satellites to low-Earth orbit, with 66 making up the operational constellation. In total, 81 new satellites are being built, with nine serving as on-orbit spares and six as ground spares. The satellites were designed by Thales Alenia Space, which serves as system prime contractor, and are being integrated by Thales’s subcontractor, Orbital ATK, at its Satellite Manufacturing Facility in Arizona. The production process features an 18-station, state-of-the-art assembly line system for all 81 Iridium NEXT satellites.


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