19 years after the first launch of Iridium satellites, on Friday, a SpaceX rocket delivered 10 satellites to low-Earth orbit. This launch completed the two-year campaign by Iridium Communications for replacing its original fleet with a new generation of mobile communication technology. These satellites also added global aircraft tracking capability to the technology.
Offering voice, data, fax and paging services to customers with Iridium handheld telephones and pagers, the first iridium satellites were launched in the 1990s. This satellite launch was the eight launch of the Iridium NEXT project worth $3 billion (roughly Rs. 21,000 crores), This project has completed delivery of 75 new satellites to orbit that will be used for McLean, Virginia, company. Out of which 66 will be operational and nine will serve as in-orbit spares and 6 other satellites will be kept as spares on the on the ground.
The launch of these satellites took place using Falcon 9 rocket which blasted off on Friday 7:31 AM from Vandenberg Air Force Base. The launch recovered its previously used first stage with a perfect landing on a “droneship” in the ocean. The upper stage of the rocket continued on to orbit arching over the Pacific west of Los Angeles.
The company representatives confirmed that all 10 newly launched satellites subsequently communicated with Iridium’s network operations centre. Iridium has been moving its new satellites into the old Satellite positions and so far, 60 new satellites are in operation. Later on these old satellites are lowered until they burn up in the atmosphere.
This newly launched Iridium NEXT satellites also carry space-based air traffic surveillance system that can look over 100 percent of the globe by Aireon LLC. In real time, this system collects Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast data automatically, especially from remote areas over the world’s oceans.