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. 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.