Tag Archives: Iridium

Iridium’s next generation constellation of satellites

The competition heats up: Iridium prepares the first 10 of a total of 81 new satellites for launch on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 in September.

The Iridium Next program is a $3 billion investment by Iridium, according to Matt Desch, Iridium’s chief executive officer. Iridium’s purchase of 81 satellites represents approximately $2.2 billion of that cost, Desch said, and the company’s launch contract with SpaceX for seven Falcon 9 flights was valued at $492 million when the parties signed it in 2010. That was the largest commercial launch contract in history until last year’s 21-launch order by satellite Internet provider OneWeb with Arianespace.

The first 10 Iridium Next satellites will fly on a Falcon 9 rocket in September, followed by a second launch as soon as December with the next batch. Iridium managers will give the go-ahead for the second launch once the first 10 satellites finish initial in-orbit tests, Desch said. The other five launches should occur about once every two months next year to fill out the Iridium Next fleet 485 miles (780 kilometers) above Earth. Iridium’s contract with SpaceX calls for all the missions to fly on newly-built Falcon 9s, a situation unlikely to change any time soon since insurance arrangements for the initial launches have been finalized.

But Desch said he is open to purchasing reused Falcon 9 boosters in the future “if they’re the right price.”

To meet this schedule SpaceX’s launch schedule will have to ramp up considerably from its present rate of one launch about every three weeks.

Iridium announces its own alternative to GPS

The competition heats up: Iridium has announced the availability of its own location technology comparable to GPS and using the company’s constellation of satellites.

Iridium Communications Inc. has introduced its Satellite Time and Location (STL) service, an alternative or complement to traditional indoor and outdoor location-based technologies, and declared it ready for use. STL’s position, navigation and timing (PNT) technology is deployed through Iridium’s 66 cross-linked, low-earth orbit satellite constellation. Through Iridium satellites and in GNSS receivers, STL technology can work to verify GPS, GLONASS, Galileo and other navigation services, and also can serve as an alternative for those services when GPS signals are degraded or unavailable. STL also can provide an alternative source of time when testing GPS signals.

Essentially, for practically nothing, using satellites and technology already in orbit, they have created their own system that can both compete and complement the expensive government-built GPS systems.

Were two Iridium satellites hit by space junk?

Engineers are puzzling over the release of debris from two separate Iridium satellites last year, with each even suggesting the satellites were hit by very small pieces of space junk.

The U.S. Joint Space Operations Center detected 10 pieces of debris from the Iridium 47 satellite June 7, 2014. Some of the objects flew away from Iridium 47 at up to 80 meters per second — nearly 180 mph — into orbits almost 200 miles above the satellite, suggesting an explosion or collision triggered their creation. Another Iridium spacecraft — Iridium 91 — produced four debris fragments Nov. 30, according to U.S. military tracking data. “In contrast to the previous Iridium breakup, however, these pieces were produced with minimal delta velocity and remained in the vicinity to the parent spacecraft for some time,” NASA officials wrote.

In both cases, the satellites showed no signs of a breakup and remain operational, according to Iridium Communications, a Virginia-based company that uses a fleet of spacecraft nearly 500 miles above Earth for mobile voice and data services.

Five space companies whose future hangs in the balance.

The heat of competition: Space News takes a close look at five space companies that will face critical challenges in the next two years.

Some of the companies on the list will surprise you. The article also gives some good background on the entire industry and the challenges it all faces in the coming year.

Posted from Tucson International Airport.

The sanctions against Russia imposed by the Obama administration could delay the launch of Iridium’s second generation communications constellation of satellites.

The sanctions against Russia imposed by the Obama administration could delay the launch of Iridium’s second generation communications constellation of satellites.

Orbital Sciences has begun construction of the 81satellites that will make up Iridium’s second generation communications satellite constellation.

The competition heats up: Orbital Sciences has begun construction of the 81satellites that will make up Iridium’s second generation communications satellite constellation.

Not only is this big business for satellite construction — 81 satellites is a big order — someone will have to launch those satellites. Even if they are launched in groups of five, which was how it was done for the first generation, it will still take more than 16 launches to get them all in orbit. That will be a lot of business for some lucky rocket company.