Spaceflight Insider

Iridium-2 launch moved up by 4 days

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with 10 Iridium NEXT satellites being prepped for launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base's Space Launch Complex 4E. Photo Credit: SpaceX

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket sits on the pad in January 2017 with 10 Iridium NEXT satellites awaiting the first of eight launches to occur from Vandenberg Air Force Base’s Space Launch Complex 4E over the next 1.5 years to send 75 next-generation communications satellite into space. The second launch has been scheduled for June 25, 2017. Photo Credit: SpaceX

The next batch of Iridium NEXT satellites is set to fly to space four days earlier than originally planned. On May 25, 2017, Iridium Communications announced the new launch date atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is now scheduled for 1:24:59 p.m. PDT (20:24:59 GMT), June 25, 2017, from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

According to an Iridium news release, SpaceX informed the communications company that Western Range availability where SpaceX’s West Coast launch facility is located had opened up. The Iridium-2 mission, as it is called, is scheduled to send 10 more next-generations satellites spaceward.

“We’re excited [about] this next launch,” said Matt Desch, CEO of Iridium. “Satellites have already started to arrive at the launch site and are undergoing pre-launch preparations, so we’ll be ready to go. [A] launch date is all the better for our constellation deployment plans.”

A Falcon 9 was used to launch the first 10 Iridium NEXT satellites back in January 2017. Seven more flights, including the one slated for June, are expected to deliver 75 satellites to low-Earth orbit. Over the next year or so, it is hoped that the new spacecraft will replace Iridium’s existing 66-satellite constellation.

The first 10 have already been integrated into the current constellation. They are designed to provide better and faster call quality and data transfer speeds to Iridium’s customer base.

Utilizing a process called a “slot swap”, the Iridium NEXT satellites will rendezvous with the legacy spacecraft at their operational orbit of about 480 miles (780 kilometers) and take over control of data and communications services without impacting users. The legacy satellites will be placed in higher or lower orbits in preparation for de-orbiting. The company said a slot swap of this scale has never been done before.

This week has been a rather novel one in terms of the U.S. launch schedule with not one but two missions actually moving up (to the left) rather than back (to the right). It was announced on May 24, that NASA’s Psyche mission is now scheduled to launch a full year earlier than planned.

Video courtesy of Iridium Communications



Derek Richardson has a degree in mass media, with an emphasis in contemporary journalism, from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. While at Washburn, he was the managing editor of the student run newspaper, the Washburn Review. He also has a website about human spaceflight called Orbital Velocity. You can find him on twitter @TheSpaceWriter.

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