Starting in January 2017, Iridium began launching Iridium NEXT satellites into low Earth-orbit (LEO) to replace their aging satellite network. Many of the older satellites are no longer in active service, are partially functional, have tumbled out of control, or have reentered the atmosphere. The new NEXT satellites will form a second-generation global network of telecommunications satellites. In our previous blog post here we discussed the new network. The final plan will have 66 active satellites that will create a worldwide network that will improve user experience and data transmission.
The globe’s first truly worldwide broadband service.
They can also be utilized as a data link to other satellites in space, enabling control and command of other space assets regardless of the position of ground gateways and stations.
Iridium has contracted with SpaceX to launch their satellites into space, ultimately planning to send 75 satellites into space on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket over 8 different launches. 66 satellites will be in operation while 9 will serve as on-orbit spares, and there will be 6 on the ground spares as well. As of Spring 2018, 6 of the launches are complete and 55 satellites are in LEO. You can watch the exciting May 22, 2018 launch on YouTube here.
Iridium plans to begin providing service through Iridium Certus as soon as early 2020. The 66 satellites will blanket the earth with coverage, bringing reliable connections to many previously unreachable locations, including remote waterways where it is crucial for mariners to have service. Iridium is creating a world where it is getting easier and easier to stay online on the go. The NEXT satellites will provide global communications and data for individuals as well as emergency communications. It is exciting to be able to watch launches in real time and the dream of an interconnected world joined together by internet service become a reality. We can’t wait for Iridium Certus service to begin!