Iridium Communications Inc. announced today that all five Iridium NEXT satellites for its sixth launch are in processing at SpaceX’s west coast launch site, Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. This launch will increase the total number of Iridium NEXT satellites in space to 55 and is the third Iridium launch to use a “flight-proven” SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Currently targeted for May 19, 2018 at 1:04:24 pm PDT (20:04:24 UTC), these Iridium NEXT satellites will be sharing this Falcon 9 with the twin spacecraft for the NASA/German Research Center for Geosciences (GFZ) Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On (GRACE-FO) mission.
Upon arrival at the launch site, each Iridium NEXT satellite began a number of pre-launch processing steps. These include mating them to the dispenser, fueling, stacking the Iridium NEXT and GRACE-FO dispensers on the Falcon 9 payload adapter, and encapsulation within the fairing. Once launched, the rocket will first deploy the twin GRACE-FO spacecraft, after which the second stage will continue onward and deploy the five Iridium NEXT satellites.
The operational Iridium constellation is comprised of 66 satellites divided into six polar orbiting planes with 11 satellites in each plane. All five satellites for this launch will be deployed to orbital plane six. To date, five Iridium NEXT launches carrying 10 satellites each have been completed, and over half of the Iridium NEXT constellation has been activated. Iridium has contracted with SpaceX to deliver 75 Iridium NEXT satellites to orbit, 66 operational and nine on-orbit spares, through a series of eight launches.
Iridium NEXT is the company’s $3 billion next-generation mobile, global satellite network scheduled for completion in 2018. Iridium NEXT will replace the Company’s existing global constellation in one of the largest technology upgrades ever completed in space. It represents the evolution of critical communications infrastructure that governments and organizations worldwide rely upon to drive business, enable connectivity, empower disaster relief efforts and more. Iridium NEXT will enable and introduce new services like the Company’s next-generation communications platform, Iridium CertusSM, and the AireonSM space-based ADS-B aircraft surveillance and flight tracking network.
For more information about Iridium NEXT, please visit www.IridiumNEXT.com.
Forward Looking Statements
Statements in this press release that are not purely historical facts may constitute forward-looking statements as defined in the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. The Company has based these statements on its current expectations and the information currently available to us. Forward-looking statements in this press release include statements regarding the deployment and capabilities of the Iridium NEXT constellation and products and services to be offered over the constellation, including Iridium Certus. Forward-looking statements can be identified by the words “anticipates,” “may,” “can,” “believes,” “expects,” “projects,” “intends,” “likely,” “will,” “to be” and other expressions that are predictions or indicate future events, trends or prospects. These forward-looking statements involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that may cause the actual results, performance or achievements of Iridium to differ materially from any future results, performance or achievements expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements. These risks and uncertainties include, but are not limited to, uncertainties regarding potential delays in the Iridium NEXT deployment, the development and functionality of Iridium NEXT and related products and services, and the company’s ability to maintain the health, capacity and content of its satellite constellation, as well as general industry and economic conditions, and competitive, legal, governmental and technological factors. Other factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those indicated by the forward-looking statements include those factors listed under the caption “Risk Factors” in the Company’s Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2017, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) on February 22, 2018, as well as other filings Iridium makes with the SEC from time to time. There is no assurance that Iridium’s expectations will be realized. If one or more of these risks or uncertainties materialize, or if Iridium’s underlying assumptions prove incorrect, actual results may vary materially from those expected, estimated or projected. Iridium’s forward-looking statements speak only as of the date of this press release, and Iridium undertakes no obligation to update forward-looking statements.