[SatNews] Iridium Communications Inc. (Nasdaq:IRDM) has announced that the production is complete of the qualification dispenser for the Iridium NEXT constellation’s initial launch, which will be conducted by ISC Kosmotras from the Yasny launch site in Russia using a Dnepr rocket, and qualification testing is on-track for completion in June 2015.
Dispensers are specially-developed assemblies that hold the satellites to the rocket during launch and then manage the critically timed separation of each satellite from the rocket once successfully in orbit. Dispenser qualification includes static load testing, shock testing, separation testing, vibration testing and interface testing. Overall, the tests ensure the dispenser will withstand the launch shock environment and test separation dynamics, fundamental frequency and structural integrity. The testing is being conducted for Iridium by Yuzhnoye State Design Office and Yuzhny Machine Building Plant (Yuzhmash) of Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, which are subcontractors of ISC Kosmotras. Iridium and Thales Alenia Space of France and Italy also worked closely with Yuzhnoye and Yuzhmash on the design and development of the dispenser.
The Iridium NEXT satellite network will consist of 66 in-orbit satellites and a number of in-orbit spares. The constellation is scheduled to begin launching in 2015 with the first launch of two satellites conducted by ISC Kosmotras on the Dnepr rocket. Seven subsequent launches of ten satellites each will be conducted by SpaceX on the Falcon 9 rocket, completing the full network in late 2017.
Iridium NEXT will serve as the platform for Aireon(sm), an important new global aircraft surveillance system using space-based ADS-B, as well as Iridium PRIME(sm), a turnkey solution for hosted payloads that will offer all elements of a successful hosted payload mission, at an estimated cost savings of 50 percent or more compared to current standalone solutions. In addition, the Iridium NEXT network will enable the recently announced Iridium Certus(sm) broadband service, which will deliver versatile, enterprise-grade, reliable communications and support a portfolio of partner products with a broad range of data speeds eventually as high as 1.4 megabits per second for a single user terminal.
“Completion of the dispenser confirms rocket readiness—another critical step toward the launch of our first satellites,” said Scott Smith, chief operating officer, Iridium.
“Iridium NEXT represents the largest payload in terms of volume and mass that we’ve handled, so we are especially proud to be completing this important mechanism,” said Alexander Serkin, chief executive officer , ISC Kosmotras. “This takes us one step closer to being launch ready.”