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Iridium 168



Ten Iridium communications satellites rode a Falcon 9 rocket into orbit Friday from California in the eighth and final launch for Iridium’s upgraded network over the last two years, and the first of around 18 predicted SpaceX missions planned in 2019.

Iridium ordered 81 Iridium Next satellites from Thales Alenia Space and Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems, which teamed up to build the spacecraft on an assembly line in Gilbert, Arizona. In June 2010, less than two weeks after the maiden flight of the Falcon 9 rocket, Iridium announced a nearly $500 million contract for SpaceX to deliver the satellites to orbit.

At the time, Iridium and SpaceX aimed to launch the first batch of satellites in 2015 and complete the upgraded network in 2017. Delays primarily driven by a pair of Falcon 9 rocket mishaps in 2015 and 2016 pushed that schedule back a couple of years.

But in the end, SpaceX placed 75 of the Iridium Next satellites into spot-on orbits. The remaining six spacecraft will remain on the ground as spares, but could be launched in the coming years to provide additional backups in the Iridium constellation.

Alternate Names

    Facts in Brief

    Launch Date: 2019-01-11
    Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9 Full Thrust
    Launch Site: Vandenberg AFB, United States
    Mass: 860 kg

    Funding Agency

    • Iridium (United States)


    • Communications

    Additional Information

    Questions and comments about this spacecraft can be directed to: Coordinated Request and User Support Office

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