SpaceX will use its Falcon 9 rocket to launch up to five of the six ground spare satellites of Iridium Communications in mid-2023 as part of the Iridium NEXT satellite constellation.
The Iridium-9 mission will take off from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California and will serve as the company’s second rideshare with SpaceX, Iridium said Thursday.
“We have always said that when the right opportunity presented itself, we would launch many, if not all, of our remaining ground spares, and just such an opportunity came about,” said Iridium CEO Matt Desch.
“Our constellation is incredibly healthy; however, the spare satellites have no utility to us on the ground. We built extra satellites as an insurance policy, and with SpaceX’s stellar track record, we look forward to another successful launch, which will position us even better to replicate the longevity of our first constellation,” added Desch, an eight-time Wash100 Award winner.
The Iridium-9 spare satellites will be deployed into a parking orbit and then fielded to their assigned orbits after preliminary testing.
SpaceX performed eight Iridium launches from January 2017 to January 2019, bringing 75 satellites to low-Earth orbit. Iridium now has 66 operational satellites and nine spares in orbit.
Thales Alenia Space built all Iridium NEXT satellites, which contain the Aireon payload for real-time aircraft surveillance.