New target date announced for second Iridium NEXT Launch

An Iridium NEXT satellite
An Iridium NEXT satellite

Iridium Communications has announced the second launch for its Iridium NEXT satellite constellation has been moved earlier, and is now targeted for June 25, 2017 at 13:24:59 PDT with an instantaneous launch window.

SpaceX informed Iridium that range availability had opened up at Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB) in California, where SpaceX’s west coast launch facility is located, and planned to target Iridium’s launch four days earlier than originally scheduled.

This launch will deliver the second payload of 10 Iridium NEXT satellites to orbit, bringing the total to 20 satellites in space.

“We’re excited for this next launch,” said Matt Desch, Chief Executive Officer, Iridium.

“Satellites have already started to arrive at the launch site and are undergoing pre-launch preparations, so we’ll be ready to go.

“An earlier launch date is all the better for our constellation deployment plans.”

Iridium has partnered with SpaceX for a series of eight launches scheduled to take place through to mid-2018, delivering a total of 75 satellites to low-Earth orbit.

Iridium NEXT is replacing the company’s existing constellation of satellites with more powerful capabilities, including Aireon’s space-based global real-time aircraft surveillance and tracking service.

In 2018, Aireon says it will provide the first global air traffic surveillance system using a space-based ADS-B network that makes it possible to extend visibility across the entire planet.

Speaking at the 2016 Aircraft eEnablement Connectivity and IFE Conference, Peter Norbjerg, European Regional Director, Aireon, said that around 30 percent of the globe is covered by ADS-B surveillance.

But the tracking drops off about 300km away from the coast and 70 per cent of the earth’s surface is currently not under surveillance.

Aireon said it is working with Iridium to place ADS-B receivers on the operational Iridium NEXT satellites, with six in-orbit spares and nine ground spares.

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