WASHINGTON – SpaceXs Eighth and Last Iridium Next launch has been delayed nine days to January 7th.
The new launch date announced on December 7th by the customer’s Iridium Communications, powered by the further two weeks SpaceX stopped needing to launch Spaceflight Industries “SmallSat Express” dedicated rideshare missions. The mission – with 64 small satellites aboard a Falcon 9 – finally took 3 December of SpaceX’s launch pillow at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.
SpaceX has launched seven sets of Iridium Next satellites from Vandenberg since January 201
7, focusing on a 30th liftoff for the eighth and final set of 10 satellites needed to complete the deployment of Iridium’s second generation constellation.
Iridium currently has 65 Iridium Next satellites in circulation. The final launch will provide Iridium 66 operational satellites and nine groundbreaking spare parts. Iridium has another six spare satellites that it holds on the ground.
SpaceX is Iridium’s only launcher for Iridium Next, which carried out the first launch almost 14 years ago on January 14, 2017.
Built by Thales Alenia Space and Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems, Iridium Next Giver L-band voice and data services from low ground conditions. The satellites also carry host loads for Aireon Air Traffic Services and Harris and ExactEarth’s Shipping Tracking.
SpaceX has launched 20 times this year and won last year’s record 18 assignments. The company has yet another mission scheduled for 2018: a December 18 launch of the American Air Force’s first GPS 3 satellite.