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The first batch of Iridium Next satellites is ready to launch

The first batch of Iridium Next satellites, the total number of which is 81, will soon leave the design base to go into space on SpaceX Falcon 9 missiles in September. The satellites will deliver in pairs in military trucks to Vandenberg airbase, where it will launch from September 11 to September 12 2016 year. This will be the third Falcon 9 flight from Vandenberg base and the first launch from there with a modernized version of the launch vehicle with more powerful Merlin engines and super-cooled rocket fuel. SpaceX will deliver a modified version to the launch pad at the end of summer.

The assembly of the first two Iridium Next satellites was completed last month and now Iridium plans to produce one satellite per week until the end of 2017.

“The release of one satellite per week is a truly impressive achievement in satellite production and something new that people will strive for in the future,” said Frank Culbertson, president of Orbital ATK, who oversees the final assembly of Iridium Next by agreement with the general contractor Thales Alenia Space.

The Iridium Next program required financial influences of $ 3 billion from Iridium, making it one of the most expensive commercial launch contracts, giving way only to the conclusion of the OneWeb satellite Internet provider.

The first 10 Iridium Next satellites will be delivered into orbit on the Falcon 9 rocket in September 2016. The Iridium managers will give the go-ahead for a second launch, as soon as the preliminary tests of the first representatives are completed in orbit.

The next five transfers should be carried out approximately every 2 months during the next year. The Iridium contract with SpaceX determines the sending of all batches of satellites on the new Falcon 9s boosters and the situation is unlikely to change in the near future.

Initially, Iridium planned to launch the first Iridium Next satellites before the end of July, but Vandenberg launch pad was not ready to provide the place and the necessary capabilities for this. The reason for this was the large number of launches necessary for the needs of the US Air Force. However, by September 2016 everything will be ready. A small time delay, although upsetting the Iridium representatives, according to their assurances, will not affect the approved launch schedule. Dash also said that Iridium is in a separate line for launch at Vandenberg, and as soon as the opportunity arises, the dispatch will be carried out immediately.

SpaceX representatives also noted that on the launch pad, intensive land preparation is underway to launch the latest version of the Falcon 9, which is 5 feet higher than normal and runs on chilled fuel.

Vice President of Thales Alenia Space, general contractor for Iridium Next, Bertrand Moreau confirmed that 14,000 transceiver modules are required for all satellites to work effectively. They will provide satellites with each other and with ground stations. Moro also noted that specifically for Iridium Next, developers wrote 500,000 lines of program code. All this will allow for uninterrupted communication in real time between stations, users and satellites. Each satellite has its own digital switch.

Features of Iridium Next satellites
Iridium Next satellites are designed to replace the aging space fleet of the company, which was launched before 2000. The new generation of devices has more advanced functionality, for example, they support 3G.

The main constellation of Iridium satellites consists of 66 objects – 11 spacecraft in six orbital planes, which provides global coverage and service for more than 800,000 subscribers. By the end of 2017, Iridium will complete a fleet upgrade. And, although the contracts with SpaceX and Kosmotras are designed to launch 72 satellites, the company plans to eventually launch all the facilities (81).

Iridium satellites broadcast telephone calls and messages around the world for the needs of such clients as military, maritime and aviation companies, oil and gas operators, construction and agricultural companies. Iridium Equipment:

Wi-Fi access points
omnidirectional antennas;
Hundreds of engineers in Gilbert, Arizona worked on new satellites. At the production site there were several stations at once, which ensured work with several satellites at once. There, on site, the first basic tests of the facilities were carried out.

“What you see … is a very unique way to create satellites; in other countries, this approach does not apply,” said Dash.

The creation of one satellite takes from 40 to 50 days at a factory in Arizona, specially built for the Iridium Next program. The new satellites are designed based on 20 years of experience, so they are subjected to a very thorough test. For example, the release of the first representatives of Iridium Next was delayed for 4 months due to the detection of a defect inside the Ka-band satellite transmit-receive modules.

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