Iridium has reached an agreement with SpaceX to launch up to five of the company’s remaining ground spare satellites from the Iridium NEXT programme on its Falcon 9 rocket.
Known as Iridium-9, the launch is planned to take place at Vandenberg Space Force Base in mid-2023.
Iridium-9 will be Iridium’s second rideshare with SpaceX. Previously, SpaceX conducted eight Iridium launches between January 2017 and January 2019. These launches delivered 75 satellites to low earth orbit (LEO) as part of the Iridium NEXT campaign, replacing the company’s original satellite constellation.
Since completion of the launch programme in 2019, Iridium has 66 operational L-band satellites, nine on-orbit spares and six additional spares on the ground. Up to five of those six ground spares are planned for launch as part of Iridium-9.
“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.”