Successful SpaceX Launch Friday Morning

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Successful SpaceX Launch Friday Morning
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(Photo: U.S. Air Force photos by Airman 1st Class Clayton Wear & Michael Peterson)

On Friday, March 30 at 7:13 a.m., SpaceX successfully launched the Iridium-5 mission from Space Launch Complex 4E (SLC-4E) at Vandenberg Air Force Base. This was the fifth set of 10 satellites in a series of 75 total satellites that SpaceX will launch for Iridium’s next generation global satellite constellation, Iridium® NEXT. The satellites were deployed about an hour after launch.

Falcon 9’s first stage for the Iridium-5 mission previously supported the Iridium-3 mission from SLC-4E in October 2017. SpaceX did not attempt to recover Falcon 9’s first stage after launch.

Iridium has announced that all 10 new satellites have successfully communicated with the Iridium Satellite Network Operations Center and are preparing to begin testing. These devices are designed to do everything from tracking endangered species and monitoring power lines to controlling shipping container temperature levels or serving as tsunami warning systems. 

“It’s a unique coincidence that we passed the one million subscribers mark right at this launch, and it’s particularly exciting because we’ve surpassed this milestone earlier than we had anticipated,” said Matt Desch, chief executive officer at Iridium. “The new satellites and services we’re launching and continued strong subscriber growth are cementing our position as an industry leader and critical global communications platform and underscore the significant transformation we’ve undergone as a company over the last 10 years. This truly is a testament to the trust our partners and customers have in our network, which is only going to continue growing as the deployment of the Iridium NEXT constellation nears completion.”

(Photo: U.S. Air Force photos by Airman 1st Class Clayton Wear & Michael Peterson)

To date, Iridium has completed five launches of 10 Iridium NEXT satellites, all with SpaceX from Vandenberg Air Force Base.  A total of eight Iridium NEXT launches are currently planned with SpaceX delivering a total of 75 new satellites to orbit. In total, 81 satellites are being built, with 66 in the operational constellation, nine serving as on-orbit spares and six as ground spares, reports Iridium Communications.

The first stage booster for today’s launch was previously flown during Iridium-3 in October 2017, making this the second Iridium NEXT launch to use a flight-proven Falcon 9 rocket. Each launch strategically delivers new satellites to specific orbital planes to ensure the earliest possible completion of the constellation. The Iridium network is comprised of six polar orbiting planes, each containing 11 operational, crosslinked satellites, for a total of 66 in the active constellation. The 10 Iridium NEXT satellites launched today were successfully delivered to orbital plane one where they will replace first generation satellites over the next 30 days.
 

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