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Home / Science / Iridium strives to complete the upgraded network with the launch of Falcon 9 on Friday – Spaceflight Now

Iridium strives to complete the upgraded network with the launch of Falcon 9 on Friday – Spaceflight Now

Artistic concept of the Iridium Next satellites covering the flight coverage. Credit: Aireon

The launch of ten other upgraded spacecraft aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will complete the $ 3 billion construction of Iridium's upgraded global communications network on Friday, with the launch of new broadband and aircraft tracking services allow months.

Launching on Friday, SpaceX and Iridium have teamed since January 2017 on eight Falcon 9 flights with 75 payloads. This will give Iridium a complete new spacecraft capable of completely replacing and upgrading its legacy voice and data communications network

The 70-meter-high Falcon 9 rocket powered by a re-used first-stage booster previously held in Cape Canaveral in September was flown out of Vandenberg Air Force Base, California at 7:31:33 am (PST) (10: 31.33 pm EST; 1531: 33 GMT). The two-stage rocket will deploy the ten satellites built in partnership by Thales Alenia Space and Northrop Grumman Innovations Systems in about 15 minutes approximately one hour after launch.

SpaceX plans to land the Falcon 9 The first leg after launching Friday on a drone ship positioned the Pacific a few hundred miles south of Vandenberg. It is not expected that the mesh-fitted commercial vehicle for the launcher of the launch company, Mr. Steven, will catch the Falcon 9 nose on Friday.

Matt Desch, chief executive of Iridium, told reporters before launching that 10 more satellites added to the network – enough to completely replace the constellation – is a "huge deal".

Iridium already has 65 new generation "Iridium Next" satellites in orbit, and everyone is "happy and healthy," Desch said. The company's communications network operates on 66 active satellites, spread over six levels of orbital space, as well as spare parts and radio links between satellites to relay voice and data traffic over ground stations on Earth.

Iridium's first generation "Block 1" satellites, built by Lockheed Martin, launched from 1997 to 2002 and was designed for seven-year missions. The bulk of the fleet survived this projection for life by far. The new satellites had a dual mission to replace the aging and obsolete constellation of the 1990s and provide a vehicle for introducing new services beyond Iridium's bread-and-butter and Internet message relaying capabilities.

Satellites set for launch on Friday will land at level 3 of the Iridium fleet, and take off with an instant start window to the second to bring payloads into the correct orbit.

One Iridium Certus, one of the new Iridium services, will enable customers to send and receive higher-bandwidth messages, including high-definition video and Internet connections. Iridium Certus has been designed for ships, aircraft and other users on the go, providing Iridium customers with L-band connectivity at up to 1.4 megabits per second. This is the case with the previous satellite generation at 128 kilobits per second.

Each Iridium Next satellite also hosts a host radio receiver for Aireon, a subsidiary of Iridium, formed in partnership with air traffic control authorities in Europe and Canada. Aireon's instrumentation will monitor air traffic worldwide, including aircraft leaving the range of conventional ground radars.

The Iridium Next satellites were connected to their donors in a clean room at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, Falcon 9 rocket before mating at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. Credit: Iridium

"We took the first step with Iridium Next in 2007 and we started 2010 with great seriousness. When our first launch two years ago on January 14, 2017 finally took place, it was very exciting was incredible and very important. But our final start … is by far the most important milestone of all. "Said Desch.

" I'm sure you can think of some reasons, "he continued. "The completion of a $ 3 billion network update, the new services we can introduce, such as Iridium Certus broadband, more efficient IoT (Internet of Things) and Aireon, the financial transformation that will allow Iridium to do so. But for me, this start symbolizes something even more important. It means finally realizing the dream that the founders of this system had more than 30 years ago. This means that our network is finally achieving the financial independence and security that makes a satellite network operator mature and successful, and offers us many opportunities we have never had before. This is a big deal for our customers, our partners, and quite open to the industry itself. "

Iridium, originally supported by Motorola, was a pioneer in the space and communications industry, bringing the first commercial satellite fleet of its size into orbit , Iridium, however, declared bankruptcy shortly after launching its first satellite series. A new company was formed to take over the assets of Iridium, including satellites already in space, with a new high-priced business strategy and weak demand that would ruin the original Iridium concept.

Iridium now has more than one million subscribers on its customer list. and the US Department of Defense is one of the company's core customers, along with aerospace and ship operators, ground transportation providers, and users in the mining, forestry, and oil and gas industries.

"What comes after Iridium Next? This answer is very much, "said Desch. "The first new service we introduce is our dedicated L-band broadband service called Iridium Certus. The name Certus is actually Latin and means reliable, purposeful, safe and secure, all the adjectives that we believe define well Iridium and our new unique broadband service.

"We did everything we could to test Iridium Certus for the Internet market in 2018, and the data trials are nearing completion. In fact, they are complete for some of our service providers who already provide service to their maritime clients prior to their official launch. The official launch of Iridium Certus is imminent. "

Desch said the Iridium Certus offer will provide a" safety-of-life "broadband connection to maritime crews and pilots. In a teleconference with reporters last week, he suggested that Iridium's new L-band broadband service would not compete with geostationary high-throughput satellites and planned "mega-constellations" of hundreds or thousands of low-earth-borne space probes in the Ka-band and Ku-band, aimed at the individual consumer market.

"Iridium Certus is applicable to all industries, from shipping and aviation to mobile land and the Internet of Things," said Desch. "We focus our service on life-safety applications and other important broadband applications. We believe that this is a $ 700 million market that we will enter today, mainly from a satellite operator (Inmarsat), and we believe our service will be superior in every way. "

Internet of Things is a household name in the industry For a network that forwards data, measurements and other signals between numerous objects around the world, it ranges from distant weather beacons to critical broadcasts that are on the road, on the road Sea or travel in the air.

"Iridium Certus is not designed for competitive high-volume satellite mega-constellations or anyone using Ka, Ku or other bands," said Desch. "Iridium Certus is complementary. In maritime applications, L-band terminals are nowadays commonly installed as a supplement to VSAT (Ku or Ka-band) terminals on board for coverage and security purposes.

L-band communication is one of its advantages. Typically, a smaller ground receiver than the Ku or Ka band is required, and the L band is less susceptible to interference from rain, fog, and storms, causing it ideally suited for critical services. Ku and Ka bands, however, offer a higher bandwidth than the L band.

"Iridium Certus will be in the cockpit in aviation, providing operational and safety communications at the optimum level, while K-band and Ku-band K-band cabin are for everyone to use the WLAN for entertainment services," said Desch.

The Falcon 9 rocket is to launch SpaceX's eighth mission for Iridium booths at the Space Launch Complex 4-East at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. Credit: SpaceX

Like SpaceX's earlier launches for Iridium, the Falcon 9 rocket is programmed to place the new satellites in a polar orbit about 625 kilometers high on Friday.

Each of the 1,896 lb (860 lb) kilograms Iridium Next satellites will use their own engines to get to a higher point (780 kilometers) to orbit where six of the new spacecraft will be with the last the old Block 1 satellites will meet. Bodecontrollers at the Iridium Network Operations Center in Leesburg, Virginia, will immediately move traffic from the old satellite to the new ship without interrupting the commercial service. In one case, the company calls a "slot swap".

The other four satellites launch Friday is designated as a replacement for the Iridium fleet.

"This will bring the total number of new Iridium satellites in orbit to 75, and after several weeks of testing and validation, we will officially finalize our new constellation. Desch said.

Iridium ordered 81 Iridium Next satellites from the Thales Alenia Space / Northrop Grumman team. Desch said the remaining six satellites not yet launched will remain in a ready-to-fly state and could be launched in the coming years to rejuvenate the constellation.

Engineers disable the expiring Iridium satellites as soon as the new relay stations arrive at Orbit. Most of the old satellites have been maneuvered out of orbit to fall back into the Earth's atmosphere, and all undergo a process known as passivation, in which their batteries and fuel tanks are emptied, rendering them ineffective and reducing the danger of explosion in the future ,

Iridium torches, a popular phenomenon of the sky observers in the last 20 years, will end when the last of the old satellites is withdrawn. The Iridium satellites, built by Lockheed Martin, have silver-coated Teflon antennas that behave like mirrors, reflecting sunlight to the earth shortly before sunrise and just after sunset.

The torches are predictable – until the second – and the satellite briefly becomes the brightest objects in the night sky. Sky Observation apps and sites can deliver iridium flare times all over the world.

The Iridium Next satellites designed by Thales Alenia Space have a different antenna shape that does not produce flares.

"It's a sad time for the worldwide flare watching community," said Desch. "That will be over."

Aireon Preparations for Air Navigation Attempts in the North Atlantic

Aireon's managed aircraft tracking service will also make a big step towards launching operations with the launch of Friday.

Aireon says his service, run by Harris Corp. Built-in receiver used to capture aircraft position data will ensure that air traffic controllers know where aircraft are located around the world and fuel efficiency.

The aviation authorities in Canada, Ireland, Italy, Denmark and the UK are part of the Aireon joint venture with Iridium, and air traffic management organizations are preparing to use the system in Africa, the US and other European countries.

"With the complete configuration of Iridium Next, Aireon will have real-time air traffic control data comparable to that of ground systems, but for the entire planet, ie. h Over the oceans and remote areas where it has never existed before, "said Don Thoma, CEO of Aireon.

The Aireon system collects position data sent by aircraft equipped with ADS-B technology Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B) technology allows an aircraft to locate its location via satellite navigation and instantly deploy its position, but ADS-B ground-based receivers have the same limitations as radars – they do not allow for continuous tracking Airplanes over oceans and other remote regions.

When airplanes fly outside the radar range, pilots are usually instructed to maintain certain equipment course and altitude, for safety reasons a distance of 30 to 100 miles (about 50-150 kilometers) between aircraft With global real-time monitoring, these requirements could be relaxed. [19659003] The Aireon receivers of the Iridium Next satellites receive the same ADS-B signals that are already transmitted by most aircraft. US and European regulators have demanded that all commercial passenger aircraft be equipped with ADS-B technology by 2020.

"This was the driving force behind the founding of Aireon," said Thoma. "It has been clear for many years that a complete and truly global aircraft monitoring system is a must, not only for the efficiency of air traffic management, but also for the safety of all those traveling by air.

"Aireon will support important safety improvements, including improved controller awareness, reduction of aircraft separation, and elimination of security vulnerabilities due to lack of real-time monitoring," said Thoma. "This reduces controller response times to normal situations, such as weather deviations or pilot navigation errors, and of course improves search and rescue response times."

"The use of Aireon will improve the efficiency of air traffic by optimizing flight paths and improved traffic flows. Real-time monitoring will allow airlines to plan and navigate more direct routes, saving significant amounts of fuel. "

According to Thoma, the certification of the Aireon system should be completed by March and allow operational trials with satellite-based ADS systems. B-position data is expected to begin in April in the North Atlantic for the busy air traffic corridor between North America and Europe.

The Canadian and British aviation authorities will oversee these trials while the Federal Aviation Administration is conducting similar operating tests in the Caribbean.

"The final launch of Aireon is very important," said Thoma. "The delivery of the last 10 payloads to orbit will finally complete the Aireon network. Once the Aireon payloads are integrated into the constellation, our team of engineers and launch customers will conduct a series of tests to ensure the final validation and certification of the networks.

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