Iridium Communications Inc. (NASDAQ: IRDM) has broadcast that their fourth Iridium NEXT launch has been targeted for December 22, 2017, by SpaceX, with a launch set for 5:26 p.m. PT [1:26 a.m. UTC on Dec. 23], to occur from Vandenberg Air Force Base.
This launch signifies the mid-way point of the Iridium NEXT launch program and will deliver another 10 satellites to orbit, bringing the total number deployed to 40. Targeted for just over two months after the third Iridium NEXT launch, this December date enables Iridium to maintain its planned cadence of completing all launches by mid-2018, even with SpaceX’s busy launch manifest.
To date, 30 Iridium NEXT satellites have been deployed, many of which are already providing service to customers. The new satellites are also now undergoing on orbit testing for Iridium CertusSM, a major milestone on the path to introducing the company’s next generation broadband service. Iridium Certus will feature small form factor, cost-effective terminals and antennas, and ultimately offer the fastest L-band broadband solution available, supported by the world's only truly global network.
In addition to the fourth launch date, Iridium also announced it has reached agreement with SpaceX to use flight-proven first stages for the next two Iridium launches. Iridium conducted extensive due diligence work and is fully confident in the SpaceX booster refurbishment program.
Iridium confirmed with the firm's insurers that there is no increase in premium for the launch program as a result of the use of flight-proven Falcon 9 rockets, further supporting Iridium’s conclusion that the risk profile is unchanged.
Iridium NEXT is the company’s $3 billion, next-generation, mobile, global satellite network scheduled for completion in 2018. Iridium NEXT will replace the company’s existing global constellation in one of the largest technology upgrades ever completed in space. It represents the evolution of critical communications infrastructure that governments and organizations worldwide rely upon to drive business, enable connectivity, empower disaster relief efforts and more. Iridium NEXT will enable and introduce new services like the company’s next-generation communications platform, Iridium Certus, and the AireonSM space-based ADS-B aircraft surveillance and flight tracking network.
Iridium CEO Matt Desch stated he believes reusability is the future for satellite launches and that SpaceX has intelligently built their Falcon 9 program around this strategy, with three successful flight-proven Falcon 9 launches having already occurred this year.