Iridium Completes Constellation Replacement

The last 10 Iridium Next satellites are now in low earth orbit.

iridium next
Iridium's satellite network provides true pole-to-pole voice and data satcom coverage.Iridium

It’s official. SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Friday, delivering the final 10 Iridium Next satellites to low earth orbit. All have successfully communicated with the Iridium Satellite Network Operations Center. This was the eighth and final launch for Iridium, which included 75 new satellites deployed over the span of two years.

Iridium has invested $3 billion to replace its original satellite system with a new, higher-bandwidth network. Services provided will include global voice, Iridium Certus (providing L-band broadband connectivity), and the Aireon aircraft surveillance system, intended to make it impossible for an airplane ever to go missing anywhere in the world.

The Iridium satellite constellation is the only communications network with pole-to-pole coverage of the entire planet. It is comprised of six polar orbiting planes, each containing 11 crosslinked satellites totaling 66 in the operational constellation, creating a web of coverage around the Earth.

The 10 Iridium Next satellites launched as part of this final mission were deployed to orbital plane three. Since the launches began, the constellation has been undergoing a one-for-one replacement, new satellite for old, achieved through a highly choreographed in-space maneuver known as a “slot swap.”

The new constellation is expected to provide service to Iridium users for several years.