Last month, SpaceX launched 10 communications satellites into low-Earth orbit for the Virginia-based company Iridium. In the lead up of a week filled with heavy rain and strong winds, just a few clouds dotted the skies in Southern California when the rocket climbed skyward. The first batch in a $3 billion 72-satellite network that will replace the company’s current fleet of aging low-Earth-orbit mobile voice and data relay stations.
The stakes are high for both companies.
For SpaceX, which has now lost two of 29 Falcon 9 rockets -- one in flight and one on the ground -- a successful mission will help restore confidence in the low-cost boosters and clear the way for a resumption of commercial and government launches that have been on hold since a September mishap.
For Iridium, the launch was the first step in a complex satellite-by-satellite swap out, part of a long-range effort to retire satellites that have operated long past their design life, replace them with upgraded, more capable spacecraft and expand the company’s capabilities in an increasingly competitive commercial space operations environment.
“Frankly, it means our future, because we have to replace this network anyway,” Iridium CEO Matthew Desch said in an interview with CBS News.
Going into the long replacement operation, Desch said the first order of business is “to do no harm to our 800-and-some-thousand current subscribers. So the new satellites do everything the old satellites did, but they do a whole lot more. It really gets us seriously into sort of broadband connections.”
Range Global Service General Manager Terry Daniels tells this blogger that the Iridium launch will help initially with overall coverage and service which could mean less dropped calls and improved signal quality.
"In the big picture, the new constellation - which will take about two years to get launched and fully operational - will offer higher speed data solutions," wrote Daniels in an email. " Of course, higher data speeds come at a higher price. All pricing is still yet to be determined, and higher speed service won't be available until late this year."
Daniels is excited about the short term prospects in which there will be due to couple of satellites that are not working at 100%.
Down the road, the software upgrades implemented after launch, the first-generation satellites can relay voice and data at ISDN-class speeds, but the Iridium NEXT spacecraft will work at up to 1.4 megabits per second or "a whole lot more performance".
To find out more about how GET, LLC, through our Iridium satellite phone partner at Range Global Services, LLC-can help your satellite phone needs, give us a call at 671-483-0789 or our website at www.get-guam.com for more information.