WASHINGTON — SpaceX launched the final 10 Iridium Next satellites into orbit Jan. 11, completing its first mission of the year and the last in a multi-launch contract for its largest non-government customer, Iridium Communications.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket took off at 10:31 a.m. Eastern from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Almost an hour later, Iridium’s new 860-kilogram satellites separated from the rocket one-by-one for 15 minutes. Iridium confirmed telemetry from all 10 satellites at 11:53 a.m. Eastern.
The launch completes the $3 billion Iridium Next constellation, which now numbers 75 satellites — 66 operational units and nine spares — in low Earth orbit. The second-generation satellites, built by Thales Alenia Space and integrated by Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems, replace Iridium’s legacy fleet from Lockheed Martin that launched about 20 years ago.
SpaceX launched the Iridium Next satellites on a Falcon 9 with a first-stage booster that previously launched in September with Telesat’s communications satellite Telstar 18 Vantage.
SpaceX did not attempt to recover the payload fairings from this mission — something the company has often tried, so far unsuccessfully, to do during West Coast missions with the catcher ship Mr. Steven.
The Falcon 9 ...