A Falcon 9 has lifted another batch of NEXT satellites into space for Iridium Communications.
Liftoff of SpaceX’s partially used — or “flight-tested,” in company lingo — rocket came at 5:27 p.m. PST Dec. 22 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. No attempt was made to recapture the reusable first stage, an unexplained departure from the usual mission protocol.
Iridium (NASDAQ: IRDM), headquartered in McLean, Va., is constructing the NEXT fleet of constellations to provide mobile communications via its unique globe-spanning network.
The latest launch of 10 NEXT satellites is the fourth satellite mission under a contract with Hawthorne, Calif.-based SpaceX. The Falcon 9’s booster stage was previously used for an Iridium sat launch in June.
Iridium’s NEXT constellation of low-orbit satellites will power the company’s Certus communications network. Iridium is building a total 81 next-gen satellites as part of its NEXT program.
SpaceX will is under contract to launch 75 of the NEXT satellites, including nine to serve as in-orbit backups. Another six sats tagged for possible backup deployment will remain warehoused on the ground.