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Iridium adds eighth SpaceX launch for NEXT

Iridium has contracted to add an eighth SpaceX Falcon 9 launch to its Iridium NEXT programme, as part of a ‘rideshare’ agreement the will see the launch shared with the twin-satellites of the NASA/GFZ Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On (GRACE-FO) mission.

{mprestriction ids="1,2"}The deal will allow Iridium to launch five more satellites for its next-generation satellite network than was planned under its existing seven-launch schedule, with the eighth launch anticipated to take place in early 2018.

“This is a very smart way to get additional Iridium NEXT satellites into orbit,” said Matt Desch, chief executive officer at Iridium.

“This launch provides added resiliency to our network for not much more than we had planned originally to launch 72 satellites, including two with Kosmotras.”

“We are pleased to be sharing a rocket with NASA and GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences for this additional SpaceX launch, and GFZ has been a great business partner throughout this process.” 

Iridium says that it had always expected to launch additional satellites after NEXT construction was completed to utilise the nine ground spares built into the programme. This rideshare represents a cost effective way of achieving that goal while also allowing the company the opportunity to rearrange its launch and satellite drifting plan and launch these five satellites directly into their operational orbital plane, increasing the number of planned in-orbit spares by three satellites.

Consequently, Iridium should now be able to complete the whole operational constellation at a faster rate than it would have with seven launches.{/mprestriction}

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