Monday’s another big day for Elon Musk as SpaceX will stage its next momentous rocket launch today.
Riding the success of last week’s Mars Plan announcement, this latest launch has the goal of setting 10 communications satellites into low Earth orbit (LEO) for the Iridium Next communications network constellation.
Everything You Need To Know:
- The Falcon 9 rocket will be launched from the company’s pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California
- Liftoff time will be at 8:37 a.m. EDT (1237 GMT/ 5:37 a.m. PDT)
- The event will be covered live, with the webcast expected to begin 10 minutes before the liftoff time
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Rocket Launch Today Marks the 3/8 Scheduled SpaceX Launches
Dubbed as the Iridium-3 Mission, the rocket launch today will mark SpaceX’s third of eight scheduled launches commissioned by the Iridium Communications. As mentioned, this rocket launch will place 10 more Iridium spacecrafts into Plane 4 of the company’s network constellation.
The Next constellation will consist of 60 primary satellites in low-Earth orbit, with six backups that will remain on the ground. The SpaceX rocket launch today will bring the current total of orbiting spacecrafts up to 30.
Before today’s launch, previous deployments of the Iridium’s new generation of satellites were staged by the spaceflight company in January and June of this year.
Although the Iridium Next Satellites were designed by France’s Thales Alenia Space , they were built in Arizona as part of the on-going partnership with Orbital ATK, an American aerospace manufacturer and defense industry company.
The Iridium satellites, which weigh 1,896 pounds (860 kilograms) each, will be mounted on a two-tier dispenser within the Falcon 9’s payload shroud. This component will then separate from the Falcon 9’s upper stage one around 57 minutes after its scheduled liftoff.
The rocket launch today will also be SpaceX’s first attempt to land the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket on a drone ship in the Pacific Ocean.
The Iridium Network Constellation
Satellites of the Iridium Network Constellation are orbiting Earth at a height of approximately 485 miles (781 kilometers). Its orbital velocity is around 17,000 mph (27,000 km/h). Each spacecraft is also able communicate with neighboring satellites via
Interestingly each spacecraft is also able to communicate with neighboring satellites via K plane.
The new Iridium satellites, owned by Iridium Communications, are set to replace the first satellites launched during the early 1990s.
The fleet provides global coverage using inter-satellite links to relay voice and data messages between spacecraft, bouncing signals around the world via an interconnected communications web.
The network was initially conceived to provide reliable satellite communication services to satellite phones, pagers, and integrated transceivers.
At the time, these devices were primarily used by the U.S. military, oil and gas companies, and as well as aviation and maritime operators. They were also employed by mining and construction contractors.
Out of the 20 new Iridium satellites, 13 are confirmed to be already in service. The other seven satellites, according to Iridium spokesperson Jordan Hassin, are still drifting to their designated orbital planes.
As of June this year, Iridium network users were recorded to be over 900,000.
Earlier this week, Iridium announced that the company’s already testing its Iridium Certus service using the Iridium next satellites.
Matt Desch, Iridium CEO, said in a statement:
“Iridium Certus is going to fundamentally change the status quo in satellite connectivity for aviation, maritime, land-mobile, Internet of Things (IoT) and government users.”
He continued by stating that “Achieving this major milestone continues our momentum for our mission to introduce world-changing broadband services and applications designed to help our partners provide critical connectivity solutions, both standalone and in support of other broadband technologies.”
Commercial service of the Iridium Certus is set to be available in the early second quarter of 2018.
Following the rocket launch today, SpaceX is also set to launch another Falcon 9 rocket on Wednesday evening at the NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The rocket will send into space a stationary communications satellite for SES and EchoStar.