Before Space X could complete its first launch, the company was done with its Falcon 9 Static Fire Test. Falcon 9 B1049 is set to launch an essential mission marking for SpaceX and customer Iridium. The final contracted launch of the upgraded Iridium NEXT satellite communications constellation.
While Iridium Communications is less than a week away from the final launch of its 75-satellite Iridium Next constellation, Iridium’s last six second-generation satellites should finish construction by February, if not sooner, CEO Matt Desch said. SpaceX did admittedly offer an unbeatable price allowing Iridium to afford a new constellation in the first place, but the risk Iridium took was truly immense at the time.
According to Desch, Iridium is in no rush to orbit the final spares. Iridium already increased the number of orbital spares in Iridium Next in 2017. Following the upcoming Jan. 8, SpaceX Falcon 9 launch will already have a full complement of nine orbiting spares as a backup for the 66 operational satellites. But spare satellites keep better in space than on the ground.
Formerly launched between 1997 and 1998, the first Iridium constellation became and still remains the only satellite communications constellation in history to offer global and persistent coverage anywhere on Earth, allowing those with Iridium devices to guarantee connectivity no matter where they are.
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Although SpaceX and Iridium originally planned for launches to take place over a roughly 24-month period, unplanned technical delays and a duo of in-flight Falcon 9 failures pushed Iridium NEXT’s launch debut back several years. But now, SpaceX and Iridium were finally able to begin launching satellites in January 2017 and have continued to consistently do so every 3-4 months since then.
In the meantime, Desch estimated the time for Iridium-8’s official launch. The company anticipates fully deorbiting the entire Block 1 constellation early this year.