Post the successful launch of its NEXT satellites earlier last month, satellite maker Iridium has now announced that it has again contracted SpaceX for their satellite launch. This will be the eighth flight for Iridium for the new Falcon 9 booster, that is anticipated to lift off from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California by early 2018.
Speaking about the scheduled launch, Matt Desch, CEO at Iridium, says,
This is a very smart way to get additional Iridium NEXT satellites into orbit. This launch provides added resiliency to our network for not much more than we had planned originally to launch 72 satellites, including two with Kosmotras.
But, this isn’t your usual rocket launch as it won’t carry satellites from only Iridium. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launch will not only carry only their five NEXT communication satellites but also two NASA satellites. These satellites accompanying Iridium on the ride are Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On (GRACE-FO) spacecraft. This mission will see the satellites being deployed into a separate low-Earth orbit as compared to Iridium.
The official statement from the company describes this launch as a ‘rare opportunity’ for Iridium to take flight with NASA. This, however, is also being seen as an economic situation, where the company is launching its additional satellites. This is also the first rideshare deal for the company. Talking about the same, Desch continues to add,
We are pleased to be sharing a rocket with NASA and GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences for this additional SpaceX launch, and GFZ has been a great business partner throughout this process.