Iridium faces two-month network delay

Alan Burkitt-Gray
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SpaceX backlog because of September 2016 explosion delays next Iridium launch by eight weeks

Satellite operator Iridium is facing a two-month delay in getting its new network in operation.

SpaceX launched the first 10 of Iridium’s planned 75 high-power broadband satellites in January, but the company has delayed the next batch – satellites 11-20 – from April to June.

The delay is the result of a SpaceX launch explosion in September 2016 which has already delayed the programme to replace Iridium’s 20-year-old satellites with a new, more powerful network.

But Iridium CEO Matt Desch was undeterred. “After such a successful first launch, we are eager to maintain the momentum until our network is completed,” he said. “Even with this eight week shift, SpaceX’s targeted schedule completes our constellation in mid-2018.”

The announcement comes as Iridium has put the first of the 10 January satellites into full operation, working will the old satellites launched in the 1990s by Motorola, which backed and financed the original venture until it collapsed into bankruptcy.

Scott Smith, chief operating officer at Iridium, said: “Since their perfect orbit injection and deployment by SpaceX, our satellite testing process has progressed ahead of schedule, a testament to the rigorous development programme they’ve undergone on the ground.”