Iridium to Use Flight Proven Falcon 9 First Stages for Next Two Launches

The SpaceX Falcon 9 first stage booster is seen as it lands shortly after launching the Dragon spacecraft from pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, Saturday, June 3, 2017. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

MCLEAN, Va., Oct. 19, 2017 (Iridium Communications PR) — Iridium Communications Inc. (NASDAQ:IRDM) announced today that the fourth Iridium NEXT launch has been targeted by SpaceX for December 22, 2017 at 5:26 p.m. PT [1:26 a.m. UTC on Dec. 23], from Vandenberg Air Force Base.

This launch signifies the mid-way point of the Iridium NEXT launch program and will deliver another 10 satellites to orbit, bringing the total number deployed to 40. Targeted for just over two months after the third Iridium NEXT launch, this December date enables Iridium to maintain its planned cadence of completing all launches by mid-2018, even with SpaceX’s busy launch manifest.

To date, 30 Iridium NEXT satellites have been deployed, many of which are already providing service to customers. The new satellites are also now undergoing on-orbit testing for Iridium CertusSM, a major milestone on the path to introducing the company’s next generation broadband service. Iridium Certus will feature small form factor, cost-effective terminals and antennas, and ultimately offer the fastest L-band broadband solution available, supported by the world’s only truly global network.

In addition to the fourth launch date, Iridium also announced it has reached agreement with SpaceX to utilize flight-proven first stages for the next two Iridium launches. Iridium conducted extensive due diligence work and is fully confident in the SpaceX booster refurbishment program.

“I believe that reusability is the future for satellite launches, and I think SpaceX has intelligently built their Falcon 9 program around this strategy,” said Iridium CEO Matt Desch. “With three successful flight-proven Falcon 9 launches already this year, we’re excited to show leadership towards the sustainable access to space, while also making sure we maintain our cadence to complete the five remaining Iridium NEXT launches by the middle of next year.”

Iridium confirmed with its insurers that there is no increase in premium for the launch program as a result of the use of flight-proven Falcon 9 rockets, further supporting Iridium’s conclusion that the risk profile is unchanged.

Iridium NEXT is the company’s $3 billion, next-generation, mobile, global satellite network scheduled for completion in 2018. Iridium NEXT will replace the company’s existing global constellation in one of the largest technology upgrades ever completed in space. It represents the evolution of critical communications infrastructure that governments and organizations worldwide rely upon to drive business, enable connectivity, empower disaster relief efforts and more. Iridium NEXT will enable and introduce new services like the company’s next-generation communications platform, Iridium Certus, and the AireonSM space-based ADS-B aircraft surveillance and flight tracking network.

For more information about Iridium NEXT, please visit www.IridiumNEXT.com.

About Iridium Communications Inc.

Iridium is the only mobile voice and data satellite communications network that spans the entire globe. Iridium enables connections between people, organizations and assets to and from anywhere, in real time. Together with its ecosystem of partner companies, Iridium delivers an innovative and rich portfolio of reliable solutions for markets that require truly global communications. The company has a major development program underway for its next-generation network — Iridium NEXT. Iridium Communications Inc. is headquartered in McLean, Va., U.S.A., and its common stock trades on the NASDAQ Global Select Market under the ticker symbol IRDM. For more information about Iridium products, services and partner solutions, visit www.iridium.com.

  • Mr Snarky Answer

    It would now be harder to find customers who aren’t planning on using them.

    Game, set, match

  • Bill Douglass

    We see on spaceflightnow that Elon has scheduled the first launch out of his rebuilt Canaveral pad for November 28th. Good news.
    Has anyone heard anything at all lately about the status of his private launch site south of Brownsville? Last we heard, maybe a year ago, he was having trouble compacting the grade under his launch pad there and was getting push back from the locals for having to have badges or passes to get through his gate to access their properties.

  • Lee

    Why can’t we just call them “used”. Hate the whole “pre-owned” and “flight-proven” PC bs.

  • windbourne

    huh.
    call it what-ever you want.
    That is your choice.

  • DJN

    As they say, its a used car as soon as you drive it off the lot.

  • ThomasLMatula

    You mean like the thousands of used B737s folks fly on every day?

  • ThomasLMatula

    According to the Elon Musk fan site – Teslarati.com it should be ready in a couple of years.

    https://www.teslarati.com/spacexs-texas-based-mars-launch-facilities-completed-soon-2019

    SpaceX’s Texas-based Mars launch facilities to be completed as soon as 2019

    By Eric Ralph
    Posted on September
    17, 2017

  • ReSpaceAge

    I call them falcon 9s myself.

    While standing at Jetty Park watching my second booster return to land. I saw the first one from there too. I was surprised how normal it seemed. The rocket went up, then 10 12 minutes later it came back down. dull, boring. Like watching a plane land at the local airport.
    The reusable age is here.

    Falcon 9s should do.

  • ThomasLMatula

    The great thing about reusables is it allows SpaceX to make gestures like this free launch its customers. Should drive insurance costs down. And the competition up the wall 🙂

    https://www.teslarati.com/spacex-credits-spacecom-free-launch-failed-facebook-mission/

    SpaceX credits SpaceCom with free launch after failed Facebook mission
    Posted on October 19, 2017

    “Israeli satellite operator Space Communications will be sending its newest
    Amos-17 satellite aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at no cost in 2019. The news comes via a press release by SpaceCom that indicates SpaceX will provide launch services for the Amos-17 satellite in 2019 which will be followed by a second launch in 2020 for its Amos-8 satellite. More notably, the “launch agreement” constitutes a correction to the failed Amos-6 satellite launch after the “Facebook satellite” was destroyed when its Falcon 9 launcher exploded during a routine static fire test two days ahead of liftoff.”

    Yep, we guarantee to get your satellite into orbit or your next launch is free!

  • Kirk

    Right now, when they seem to be reflying their Block 3 Falcon 9 boosters at most once, “flight-proven” does sound like a euphemism for “used”, but the goal of their Block 5 upgrade is to refly a dozen or so times without refurbishing. I, too, hate euphemisms, but if they do meet their reusability goals, then describing one of their boosters as being “used” will sound as quaint as referring to an airliner as being “used” following its maiden voyage.

  • Jeff2Space

    Last car I bought was “certified used” car with the remainder of the factory warranty on it. Hell of a lot cheaper than a new car. I figure I can still get 150k miles out of it before the wheels fall off. 😉

  • Jeff2Space

    My guess is that the Block 3’s could fly more, but why? I would think there are advantages to standardizing on the Block 5 as soon as possible. It’s a p.i.t.a. to support several different versions of the same vehicle.

  • redneck

    I buy them after the warranty is out and the banks won’t touch them. $5k for 100,000 miles recent average for 4wd work trucks.

  • Larry J

    Their pattern for Block 3 rockets seems to fly an LEO mission, recover the stage, then reuse it on a GTO launch. They don’t seem to reuse the boosters used on GTO launches but maybe it’s too soon to know. Perhaps they’re just wanting to get more experience with reuse before flying a stage on a second GTO mission. Or, they may be waiting for later versions of the rocket with improvements to refly GTO missions.

    If there’s an opportunity to fly another LEO flight, they’re likely to use the stage on other LEO flights. We could see the first stage to be flown three times in the next year or two.