Iridium Hopeful SpaceX Launches Will Resume Soon

The Iridium Next constellation will enable higher data speeds, but the timetable for launching the satellites remains unclear.

Iridium Next
Iridium's Next satellite constellation will be launched into low-Earth-orbit by SpaceX.Iridium

Iridium isn’t sure when SpaceX will be ready to launch the company’s Iridium Next satellites following the explosion of a Falcon 9 rocket on September 1 in Florida, but the company is moving swiftly forward to offer business aviation new airborne hardware that will enable subscribers to take advantage of the new constellation’s faster data speeds.

Many observers are predicting SpaceX will resume rocket launches by the end of the year now that investigators think they know what caused the explosion on the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center.

Iridium’s Next constellation will consist of 70 satellites (66 for the constellation plus four spares) that will be sent into low-Earth-orbit in batches of 10 per launch.

The Next satellites will replace the current Iridium constellation. The old satellites initially will be moved to a lower orbit and later descended into the atmosphere, where they will burn up.

At the NBAA Convention in Florida this week, Iridium discussed the new Certus hardware for aviation that will enable data speeds of up to 1.4 Mbps once the Iridium Next constellation is completed.

The new hardware includes three antenna choices, with larger high-gain antennas enabling faster data transfers. The first of the new products, the Iridium Certus 350 system, is due to hit the market in the middle of next year.

SpaceX thinks the Falcon 9 explosion was caused by the method of loading helium into the rocket and is developing a new loading system to avoid similar catastrophes.