A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base Monday, deploying the third batch of ten Iridium-NEXT communications satellites into low Earth orbit. Liftoff from SLC-4E is scheduled for an instantaneous launch opportunity at 05:37 local time (12:37 UTC).
Falcon 9 Launch:
Coming a month after SpaceX’s last launch, which successfully deployed the US Air Force’s X-37B spaceplane into low Earth Orbit, Monday’s launch is the third of a multi-launch contract between SpaceX and Iridium Communications that will see SpaceX conduct eight missions to deploy seventy-five satellites of Iridium’s second-generation Iridium-NEXT constellation.
Iridium uses a large constellation of spacecraft in low Earth orbit to provide mobile satellite communications worldwide. The first-generation constellation was developed by Iridium SSC, a company financially backed by Motorola.
The original constellation was launched between 1997 and 2002. Iridium originally planned a 77-satellite constellation – with its name coming from the chemical element with atomic number 77. However, this was scaled back to 66 satellites, operating in six planes of eleven spacecraft each.
Iridium’s first-generation satellites were designed to operate for seven years. However, some of the spacecraft have been in operation for over twenty years, and the youngest satellites have been on ...