Five additional spare satellites part of the upgraded Iridium constellation of telecommunication satellites were successfully launched by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. The entire constellation was developed and built by Thales Alenia Space, the joint company between Thales (67%) and Leonardo (33%), leading an industrial consortium. This batch of five satellites is following eight successful launches* between January 2017 and January 2019, a total of 75 Iridium satellites being already deployed to form a fully operational system in low Earth orbit (LEO) from an altitude of about 780 km. More specifically, the constellation operates with 66 satellites, distributed in six orbital planes of 11 satellites each, and will be now supported by 14 in-orbit spare satellites.
Thales Alenia Space, as prime contractor for the Iridium NEXT campaign, was in charge of all engineering, production, procurement and integration operations, along with the ground and in-orbit testing of the constellation’s overall performance. The volume production was conducted by Northrop Grumman at its Gilbert, Arizona facility where the five spares were stored.
“Engaged for 13 years alongside Iridium on its upgraded constellation, Thales Alenia Space is particularly proud to support Iridium in their resiliency for their blooming business”, commented Marc Henri Serre, EVP Telecommunications at Thales Alenia Space.
Iridium satellite constellation, the world’s highest performance, most flexible and most sophisticated constellation
The Iridium satellite constellation represents the state of the art in terms of technology and flexibility. It features global coverage, with limited ground infrastructure, since each satellite is linked to the four closest satellites, in front, behind, to the right and left. No matter where the user is located, there will always be at least one satellite visible from their position on Earth, enabling them to communicate. This type of direct satellite access, whether for transmission or reception, means that communications can be established at any given moment, even in the case of natural disasters or conflicts, in isolated areas, or to provide secure communications with protection against intrusion and piracy.
80 satellites orbited in 9 launches:
- 9th launch – May 19, 2023 – 5 satellites
- 8th launch – January 11, 2019 – 10 satellites
- 7th launch – July 25, 2018 – 10 satellites
- 6th launch – May 23, 2018 – 5 satellites
- 5th launch – March 30, 2018 – 10 satellites
- 4th launch – December 23, 2017 – 10 satellites
- 3rd launch – October 9, 2017 – 10 satellites
- 2nd launch – June 26, 2017 – 10 satellites
- 1st launch – January 14, 2017 – 10 satellites