Iridium is hoping to that by September; they would deploy its next-generation satellite constellations. They also expect the satellites to be in service around the same period. The Chief Executive of Iridium, Matt Desch, revealed this in a conference call with reporters.
He said it is possible to put the satellites in their planned orbits within a short period because the company is now efficient at maneuvering satellites into the orbits they intended for them.
Iridium has already launched 50 next-generation satellites. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 was the launch vehicle for these satellites. Desch revealed that out of the fifty satellites already launched, forty-seven of them are in service and the other three are now moving into their planned orbits.
The company has scheduled the next launch for the 21st of this month. This date is a 2-days delay from the initial date, May 19th. The Falcon 9 will launch these satellites as well. Desch attributed the postponement to minor processing issues. He also said that he does not expect any further delay.
The launch will happen at the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. During the previous launches, the Falcon 9 carried ten satellites on a single trip. Usually, the launch vehicle carries only Iridium satellites. However, the launch scheduled for May 21 is different; the Falcon 9 will carry on 5 Iridium satellites.
The satellites will have a companion; the GRACE-FO. The GRACE_FO is embarking on an earth science mission. This mission will continue the GRACE mission that ended in 2017 after fifteen years’ service.
The GRACE-FO is a twin satellite, and they would work together. The upper stage of the Falcon 9 will deploy the twin satellites into one orbit before moving to a different orbit to deploy the Iridium satellites. After this launch, Iridium expects two other launches to complete the deployment of 100 next-generation satellites.
After the May 21 launch, the next- generation satellites will have filled out three of the six of the six orbital planes. The expects to fill out the rest with the last two launches which are scheduled for July and the last quarter of the year.
These satellites will launch aboard the recently debuted Falcon 9 Block 5 launch vehicle. The vehicle launched a Bangladesh communication satellite called Bangabandhu-1 on its debut launch. This launch happened on May 11. The launch was successful.