A successful launch of SpaceX on Friday, Jan. 11, which delivered ten satellites in low-Earth orbit means the Iridium NEXT constellation is complete.
The company announced that all 10 satellites have successfully communicated with the Iridium Satellite Network Operations Center and are preparing to undergo initial tests in orbit. This was the eighth and final launch of Iridium's launch campaign with SpaceX, seeing a total of 75 new satellites deployed in less than two years.
Iridium invested approximately $ 3 billion to replace its original satellite system with a new, state-of-the-art network, ushering in an era of financial and technological transformation for the company. At the heart of this transformation is the dramatic shift in cash flows as construction capital expenditures end and a decade or more of capex holiday allows significant cash generation from existing and new services. These include Iridium CertusSM, which will provide the world's fastest and fastest L-band broadband connectivity, enabling highly mobile Internet access using smaller and more economical terminals and the AireonSM aircraft surveillance system, extending real-time visibility of aircraft for air traffic controllers and airlines for the entire planet for the first time.
The Iridium satellite constellation is claimed to be the only communications network with pole-to-pole coverage across the globe. It consists of six polar orbital planes, each containing 11 reticulated satellites, totaling 66 in the operational constellation. The 10 satellites launched as part of the final test mission were deployed in the three orbital plane. From the beginning of the launches, the constellation has been passing through a substitute one by one, new old satellite, obtained by means of a maneuver highly choreographed in the space, known like "exchange of slots".
So far, the new satellites make up 60 of the 66 satellites in operation, with the last six scheduled for activation in the coming weeks from the last launch. In total, 81 satellites are being built with 75 successful launches. Nine of the satellites launched will serve as spares in orbit, and the remaining six will be grounded parts.