Iridium is committed to keeping space clean and serving as a leader for other organizations when it comes to being a responsible steward of space.
As a leader in the satellite communications industry and operator of the world's preeminent low-earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellation, Iridium is committed to sustaining space for the future and serving as the leading example of what it means to be a responsible steward of space. With over 20 years of experience in satellite launches, maintenance, and end-of-life disposals, we continue to improve our systems and processes to minimize our impact on space. Additionally, we consistently and purposefully share our learnings with regulatory bodies to help develop and maintain the industry standards for satellite management and space debris mitigation.
Further, as thought-leaders in this industry, we are continuously working towards situational awareness for all space actors. Iridium applauds the initial steps taken by international community members to implement a sensible and sustainable space traffic management policy, and we are dedicated to continue bringing global awareness to the issue of space debris and its potentially dangerous effects for both satellite owners/operators and the general public. Through the media, public appearances, and government lobbying, we seek to move national and international regulators to implement concrete requirements for a space traffic management policy that stresses a stable and orderly space environment, and to ensure there remains enough ‘space’ for us all.
At Iridium, we are proud to do our part in ensuring the continued sustainability of our precious space.
Thought Leaders in Space Stewardship
Iridium is keenly aware of the importance of minimizing the risks associated with orbital debris. On February 11, 2009, an abandoned, uncontrolled Russian satellite crashed into Iridium 33, one of our active communication satellites, in an unprecedented space collision. Following this jolting crash, Iridium identified a need for better monitoring of all objects in space, as well as management and mitigation of space debris. In the days, weeks, and months following the collision, Iridium engineers began working with the government, U.S. Air Force, and NASA to build best practices for space operations and satellite end-of-life disposal. Today, we have integrated conjunction awareness and maneuverability capabilities into our operational DNA. Iridium maintains close and constant communication with the primary knowledge leader in the field of space debris, the U.S. Air Force Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC). Through this partnership, we help to develop content and data for the space catalog, a public resource used to track all space debris. Additionally, our space operations team partners closely with JSpOC, the Joint Functional Component Command for Space (JFCC Space), the Conjunction Assessment Technical Advisory Council (CA TAC), and the Center for Orbital Debris Education and Research (CODER) to monitor and share our space traffic data, as well as help educate and influence other organizations on the importance of space situational awareness.
In 2019, Iridium was recognized as the Reader’s Choice winner of the SpaceNews Space Stewardship Award for the successful deorbiting of its first-generation Iridium constellation. The SpaceNews Readers’ Choice Awards were selected by more than 40,000 votes in October on the SpaceNews website.
Our Voice Heard
Space Weather Monitoring
In 2010, we partnered with Johns Hopkins University and Boeing to implement the Active Magnetosphere and Planetary Electrodynamics Response Experiment (AMPERE), as part of a grant from the National Science Foundation. The Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory implemented the program through hosted payloads on the Iridium constellation. The unique architecture of the Iridium constellation provides the AMPERE sensors the capability to measure the Earth’s magnetic field, forecast space weather and solar storms, and track many other important observations. This enables high-quality forecasting of space-based solar storms that can disrupt aviation and terrestrial telecom and satellite systems. AMPERE provides data every two to 20 seconds to the ground stations, allowing for analysis within minutes – up to 100 times faster than before the program’s launch! While the original Block 1 satellites were not designed for hosted payloads, we were able to accommodate the AMPERE mission using existing sensors. With the transition to our second-generation constellation, we will be able to continue supporting AMPERE with even better input data.
ENABLING ENVIRONMENTAL WORK & RESEARCH
Iridium supports important sustainability and environmental work and research all around the globe. From climate change monitoring, to carbon footprint reduction, to wildlife protections, our technology enables many solutions designed to help make the world a safer, cleaner place.
The Ocean Cleanup
The Ocean Cleanup is an ambitious project seeking to rid the world’s oceans of plastic garbage by conducting the largest ocean cleanup in history. To do so, the team has created a system of 600-meter-long floating plastic collectors that include a 3-meter-deep skirt designed to collect plastic pollution. Iridium has joined the project as the preferred satellite communications partner. The Ocean Cleanup system is equipped with two Iridium Pilot® terminals providing the Iridium OpenPort® broadband service, which allows the autonomous system to relay critical systems data back to the team in Rotterdam, including compartment flood detection, position and location information, pictures (like the one to the right), 360-degree video, and system performance information. As The Ocean Cleanup team scales up the project to 60 systems, Iridium and AST will continue to support the mission with terminals and service, and plan to begin providing Iridium CertusSM hardware and services once it becomes available.
Click here to learn more about our involvement in The Ocean Cleanup.
Carbon Footprint and Green House Gas Reduction through AireonSM
Aireon, a joint venture in which Iridium is a significant partner, will enable the ability for commercial airline operations around the globe to reduce Green House Gas (GHG) emissions. According to the International Civil Aviation Organization, commercial flights contribute about 2 percent of manmade CO2 emissions annually. Aireon uses space-based Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast (ADS-B) receivers, specially built into each Iridium NEXT satellite, enabling the first truly global air traffic surveillance system. Using this technology, the aviation industry will be able to limit fuel emissions by improving operations of its aircraft in remote and oceanic airspace through more precise locating capabilities and optimal altitudes, speeds, and routes. According to a 2016 study at the Purdue University School of Aeronautics, “From 2020 to 2030, space-based ADS-B can make it possible to prevent approximately 14.3 million metric tons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere. This is the equivalent to removing more than 300,000 cars from U.S. roads each of those years.”
Our commitment to providing unparalleled, reliable pole-to-pole coverage enables researchers to engage in crucial activities, like O-Zone level measurement, polar ocean profiling, weather forecasting and data transmission, wave movement measurement, and Arctic Ocean mapping. We’ve partnered with various research groups and individuals to support this work with donated equipment and airtime on our network.
Click here for more information on our polar research solutions.
Iridium is a proud supporter of wildlife protection efforts around the globe. As wildlife continues to decline at alarming rates around the world, we are committed to collaborating with conservation organizations and scientists to use our technology for monitoring wildlife and fighting against poachers. We have a strong history of partnering with various organizations like Smithsonian National Zoo & Conservation Institute, Zoological Society of London, and Veterans Empowered to Protect African Wildlife (VETPAW) to develop solutions and donate resources that help protect global biodiversity.
Global Climate Monitoring
Iridium and its partners offer a range of IoT solutions that support climatology research and tracking. We understand the importance of this work in protecting our precious planet, so we are proud to support various independent research groups and individuals with donated equipment and airtime that allows them to conduct this critical work through scientific explorations, especially in remote areas.
Visit the Iridium blog to follow the work of these researchers!