Communications provider, Iridium has opted to use flight-proven Falcon 9 first stage boosters for their next two launches. According to Iridium CEO, Matt Desch the decision was made following extensive due diligence and will ensure the company’s operational deadline for the Iridium NEXT satellite constellation isn’t delayed.
Earlier this month, SpaceX deployed 10 Iridium NEXT satellites into orbit during the third of Iridium’s 8-launch deal with the launch provider. Launches four and five, which will use the flight-proven boosters, will bring the company past the halfway mark of the launch deal. Once complete, the eight-launch schedule will deploy 75 satellites for the Iridium Next constellation, a “$3 billion, next-generation, mobile, global satellite network”.
SpaceX successfully launched a third flight-proven Falcon 9 first stage booster on October 12. The launch deployed a dual-mission satellite for communications providers EchoStar and SES. Following first stage engine cutoff, the booster returned successfully to a drone barge off the coast. The booster will now be refurbished and may be the first Falcon 9 first stage to launch three payloads into orbit.
With each successive flight-proven booster launch, SpaceX takes a step closer to founder Elon Musk’s vision of full reusability. Iridium has taken a lead in realising this vision is not only utilizing flight-proven boosters but also publicly endorsing their reliability.
“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.”
Should all go well, the Iridium Next constellation is set to become fully operational by mid-2018.
Image Credit: SpaceX