Iridium Communications Inc. (NASDAQ: IRDM), the only communications company with truly global coverage, announced today the successful second launch of its next-generation network, Iridium NEXT. This payload of 10 satellites was deployed into low-Earth orbit, approximately one hour after a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, at 1:25pm PDT (20:25 UTC). With this launch complete, there are now 20 Iridium NEXT satellites in orbit, establishing the infrastructure for groundbreaking technologies such as Iridium Certus and Aireon’s space-based Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) aircraft tracking and surveillance service. Iridium Certus is poised to disrupt industry norms by enabling truly global L-band satellite broadband speeds through smaller, more cost-effective antennas.
Since the successful January 14, 2017 launch, Iridium NEXT satellites have already been integrated into the operational constellation and are providing service. The first eight operational Iridium NEXT satellites are already providing superior call quality and faster data speeds with increased capacity to Iridium customers. The two additional satellites from the first launch are continuing to drift to their operational orbital plane, where upon arrival they will begin providing service. Iridium NEXT satellites from today’s launch will be tested and integrated into the constellation over the coming weeks. Just as with the first launch, on-orbit testing and validation will be completed by the Iridium and Thales Alenia Space teams. Five of the 10 satellites from this launch will be sent to adjacent orbits (“planes”) to optimize the network deployment and ensure eleven operational satellites, and at least one in-orbit spare, are in each of Iridium’s six polar orbiting planes following full deployment.
“Right now, it’s two down with six more launches to go,” said Matt Desch, chief executive officer, Iridium. “Our operations team is eagerly awaiting this new batch of satellites and is ready to begin the testing and validation process. After several weeks of fine-tuning, the next set of ‘slot swaps’ will begin, bringing more Iridium NEXT satellites into operational service, and bringing us closer to an exciting new era for our network, company, and partners.”
Among the many technologies enabled by Iridium NEXT is a unique hosted payload from Iridium’s partner, Aireon, which will provide a real-time, global aircraft surveillance and tracking service. Today, air traffic controllers and aircraft operators face the problem of being unable to see the location of aircraft at all times, worldwide. This is largely due to the lack of aircraft tracking infrastructure on the ground in remote regions and over the oceans. The AireonSM system is designed to solve this problem. To date, more than one billion aircraft position reports have been received by the first eight operational Aireon payloads, activated after the first Iridium NEXT launch this past January.
“Since first launch, our technology has exceeded all expectations,” said Don Thoma, chief executive officer, Aireon. “With just eight payloads, we have seen an incredible amount of data, from aircraft and vehicle antennas of both high and surprisingly low wattage. We’ve conducted flight tests with the FAA and NAV CANADA, which were designed to really push our system’s limits, while also helping to fine-tune its capabilities. We’re on a path to revolutionizing how the world sees the skies, and with each launch come one step closer to making it a global reality.”
According to analyses conducted by the Flight Safety Foundation and Purdue University’s School of Aeronautics and Astronautics, space-based ADS-B, utilized by the Aireon system, can increase safety while also reducing the environmental impact of the aviation industry.
Through a series of eight launches, SpaceX will deliver 75 Iridium NEXT satellites to low-Earth orbit, with 66 making up the operational constellation. In total, 81 new satellites are being built, with nine serving as on-orbit spares and six as ground spares. The satellites were designed by Thales Alenia Space, which serves as system prime contractor, and are being integrated by Thales’s subcontractor, Orbital ATK, at its Satellite Manufacturing Facility in Arizona. The production process features an 18-station, state-of-the-art assembly line system for all 81 Iridium NEXT satellites.
For more information about Iridium NEXT, please visit https://www.iridiumnext.com.
About Iridium Communications Inc.
Iridium is the only mobile voice and data satellite communications network that spans the entire globe. Iridium enables connections between people, organizations and assets to and from anywhere, in real time. Together with its ecosystem of partner companies, Iridium delivers an innovative and rich portfolio of reliable solutions for markets that require truly global communications. The company has a major development program underway for its next-generation network — Iridium NEXT. Iridium Communications Inc. is headquartered in McLean, Va., U.S.A., and its common stock trades on the NASDAQ Global Select Market under the ticker symbol IRDM. For more information about Iridium products, services and partner solutions, visit www.iridium.com.
Forward Looking Statements
Statements in this press release that are not purely historical facts may constitute forward-looking statements as defined in the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. The Company has based these statements on its current expectations and the information currently available to us. Forward-looking statements in this presentation include statements regarding the deployment and capabilities of the Iridium NEXT constellation and products and services to be offered over the constellation, including Iridium Certus and the Aireon sytem. Forward-looking statements can be identified by the words “anticipates,” “may,” “can,” “believes,” “expects,” “projects,” “intends,” “likely,” “will,” “to be” and other expressions that are predictions or indicate future events, trends or prospects. These forward-looking statements involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that may cause the actual results, performance or achievements of Iridium to differ materially from any future results, performance or achievements expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements. These risks and uncertainties include, but are not limited to, uncertainties regarding potential delays in the Iridium NEXT deployment, the development and functionality of Iridium NEXT and related products and services, and the company’s ability to maintain the health, capacity and content of its satellite constellation, as well as general industry and economic conditions, and competitive, legal, governmental and technological factors. Other factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those indicated by the forward-looking statements include those factors listed under the caption “Risk Factors” in the Company’s Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2016, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) on February 23, 2017, as well as other filings Iridium makes with the SEC from time to time. There is no assurance that Iridium’s expectations will be realized. If one or more of these risks or uncertainties materialize, or if Iridium’s underlying assumptions prove incorrect, actual results may vary materially from those expected, estimated or projected. Iridium’s forward-looking statements speak only as of the date of this press release, and Iridium undertakes no obligation to update forward-looking statements.