The eighth and final scheduled launch for the second-generation Iridium communications constellation has been confirmed for December 30. The launch will deploy 10 Iridium Next satellites and conclude the communications provider’s $492-million launch contract with SpaceX.
The date of the final launch was revealed by Iridium CEO, Matt Desch on Twitter yesterday. He confirmed that a flight-proven Falcon 9 would liftoff from Vandenberg Air Force Base at 15:38 UTC (08:38 PST) on December 30.
It’s taken awhile, but finally have a schedule for the final launch #8 of Iridium NEXT! 8:38am pst on December 30th – we’ll have the satellites, SpaceX assures us the flight proven rocket will be ready, and VAFB is ready to ring in the New Year with us! #ThePartyWillBeEpic pic.twitter.com/vQPPeSKm0P
— Matt Desch (@IridiumBoss) October 18, 2018
Iridium officials had previously stated that they planned to deploy the full NEXT constellation before the end of 2018. The last 10 Iridium Next satellites were deployed towards the end of July. Due to several delays at both SpaceX and with Iridium’s satellite manufacturer, Thales Alenia Space, the final mission had been pushed several times. The schedule for the final launch of the last 10 satellites looks like it will come in just under the wire of the December 31 deadline.
The flight-proven Falcon 9 earmarked for the final Iridium NEXT launch is one of the new Block 5 variants. It was previously used to launch the Telstar 18V satellite in September. Following a successful launch, the Block 5 booster touched down on the “Of Course I Still Love You” drone ship around 650 kilometres (400 miles) off the coast of Florida. It is currently undergoing refurbishment and refitment ensuring it will be flight ready by December.