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Home / Science / Iridium boss sees shift in SpaceX rhythm with another starter set for Friday – Spaceflight Now

Iridium boss sees shift in SpaceX rhythm with another starter set for Friday – Spaceflight Now

The launch pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California features the Falcon 9 rocket series, designed to launch Iridium's fifth generation of new generation voice and data relay satellites.

On the eve of Iridium's fifth launch with SpaceX, Managing Director of the mobile satellite operator says he no longer has to wait for SpaceX rockets. Instead, Iridium's satellite team is racing off the assembly line at breakneck speed.

This is something other than what Iridium sang last year, as launch ramp bottlenecks and the SpaceX rocket production plan, the main engines were launch data for the company's upgraded satellite fleet.

Matt Desch, CEO of Iridium, has returned to California's Central Coast to launch the new generation Iridium Next communication transmitters for the fifth time.

"It's all familiar to me," Desch said in a telephone interview on Wednesday. "We know where we want to stay, we know what it's like to visit the pad and watch the start, I know I feel like I'm at the countdown at T-minus 20 minutes, which is an extraordinary experience to know that so much is riding in such a short time. "

Ten more Iridium Next satellites are trapped in the nose of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket waiting for takeoff at 7:13:51 PDT (10:00 AM) 13:51 am EDT; 1413: 51 GMT) Friday from the Space Launch Complex 4-East at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

Each of the 896-kilogram satellites carries an L-band antenna for voice and data connections to the phones and data terminals on the ground. The spacecraft are equipped with Ka-band cross-link radios to place satellite-to-satellite voice and data messages in orbit and to ensure that the network can reach more than 900,000 Iridium subscribers across the globe.

The Iridium Next satellites, built in. The partnership of Thales Alenia Space and Orbital ATK on a production line in Gilbert, Arizona, will maintain and expand the aging network of Iridium, which offers uninterrupted global messaging and telephone service and new higher-end applications Bandwidth, like video, introduces. They also house instruments for tracking aircraft and ships.

Four successful SpaceX missions have leased 40 satellites since January 2017, most recently in December. Like the launch that ended last year, the mission will be powered by a previously launched first stage Falcon 9 booster on Friday, the same vehicle that launched 10 Iridium Next satellites in October.

"I try to do it as routinely as possible, but it's very difficult during the start," said Desch. "I'm excited as always, I think it will be the same incredible feeling when we get through it and then it will be, let's get ready for the next."

Iridium and SpaceX were hoping for a new series of satellites On Falcon 9 missiles launch two months, starting with the second Iridium Next deployment flight in June 2017. Friday's mission will be the fourth launch of Iridium and SpaceX in nine months, not far from their schedule.

"I am satisfied, it meets our needs," Desch said about the starting rhythm. "We really focus on completing our Iridium Next constellation this year, and I'd like to finish it in the third quarter, if possible, and what really pleases me is that SpaceX has progressed so far this year Last week a quote from (SpaceX President and Chief Operating Officer) Gwynne (Shotwell) said that it's nice that she's waiting for her customers and vice versa, I think that, at least for us, is true Preparing Satellites.

Artist's Illustration of the Iridium Constellation Credit: Thales Alenia Space

"Unlike last year, when we were waiting for SpaceX, I think I'm trying this year to make sure my suppliers Deliver as fast as possible, "Desch said.

At the end of last year, engineers at the Iridium Next satellite factory near Phoenix were overhauling SpaceX rocket and launch ramp availability completed spacecraft and stored them until ready for transport to the California launch base.

"We've had a bit of a slowdown over the last few months about the availability of some parts," said Desch. "This seems to be getting up, I'm in good shape to make sure we're done with the last two launches as early as possible, it's still going on this year, and I do not think it carries any of that risk That's the focus, it's nice that I'm not really begging SpaceX to move faster. "

Desch decided in October to rebuild Iridium satellites with re-used first stages on Falcon 9. Rockets to fly.

At that time, he said to make the change upon receipt The previously flown boosters were less risky – and perhaps less – than a newly built rocket. Switching to reused rockets was also part of Iridium's launch campaigns – it was clear that waiting for new boosters from the SpaceX factory would delay deployment of the upgraded network.

"We would be in a different location if we were to use new missiles," said Desch.

The next Iridium satellite launch after Friday, scheduled for early May, will also fly on a reused booster. Only five Iridium Next payloads will fly into orbit on this mission, a joint flight with two US gravity research probes.

Missile Deployments for the Seventh and Eighth Iridium The next launches – the last two of the current program – were not confirmed.

"It's still primarily a timetable," said Desch. "There's a little bit of savings in every rocket, so if you look at a $ 3 billion program, you would not do that to save a few million dollars, I'm not saying that they are not valued and recorded, but the The reason I did not spend a lot of time talking about her is that it was not the best driver for us. "

Matt Desch, Iridium's CEO. Credit: Space Foundation

More than half of the 66 Iridium Next satellites that must completely replace the company's block-1 spacecraft are now operating.

"When you look at the service, every customer gets a new satellite over 60% of the time," said Desch.

Iridium ordered 81 satellites from the Thales Alenia Space / Orbital ATK team, including 15 spare parts. SpaceX is under contract to launch 75 of the satellites, and the start plans for the remaining six have not yet been completed.

Like the previous four Iridium Next, the SpaceX Falcon 9 missile launches south of Vandenberg Air Force Base after taking off Friday, with the goal of a 625-kilometer polar orbit.

The second stage of the Falcon 9 is detonated twice to place the satellites in the proper orbit and then release the spacecraft one hour after launch

The launch of Vandenberg, a military base on the Pacific Coast northwest of Los Angeles, is timed to place the 10 Iridium Next satellites in Tier 1 of the constellation. The network's 66 active satellites are spread over six orbital levels, providing unified coverage worldwide.

SpaceX is not planning to land the first leg of the Falcon 9 on Friday, a strategy that the company has pursued in recent months to boost its recovered inventory. The improved "Block 5" version of the Falcon 9, which is designed for multiple reuses, is due to debut late next month.

A SpaceX ship has been modified to catch the payload fairing of the Falcon 9 rocket – the fender that protects the Iridium satellite during takeoff – was pursued in the direction of a downrange zone in the Pacific Ocean, suggesting that Engineers hope to get a part of the shroud. An attempt in February to catch the disguise, which separates from the rocket in half after launch, led to a near miss. The launch on Friday will be the sixth flight of Falcon 9 and SpaceX's seventh mission in 2018, including the demo flight of the Falcon Heavy Rocket in February.

SpaceX officials earlier this year said their manifest had booked up to 30 missions for 2018. Eighteen Falcon 9 rockets launched last year, a record for businesses in a calendar year

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