Home / Science / SpaceX begins 2019 with eighth and last for upgraded Iridium network – Spaceflight Now

SpaceX begins 2019 with eighth and last for upgraded Iridium network – Spaceflight Now

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Vandenberg's Air Force Base in California at 07:31 PST (10:31 AM EST; 1531 GMT) Friday with 10 more Iridium communications satellites. Credit: SpaceX

Ten Iridium communications satellites traveled a Falcon 9 rocket in a orbit Friday from California in the eighth and final launch of Iridium's upgraded network over the past two years and the first of about 18 predicted SpaceX missions scheduled in 2019 [19659003] The 229-foot (70 meter) Falcon 9 rocket lit its nine Merlin 1D main engines and climbed from Space Launch Complex 4-East at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, at 07:31:33 PST 10:31 : 33 EST; 1531: 33 GMT) Friday.

Falken 9 stretched into a clear morning sky at California's Central Coast, heading south to the Pacific Ocean, and released its first step booster to return to a landing on SpaceX's drone ship around 250 kilometers down from Vandenberg.

The landing marked the 33rd time SpaceX has restored one of its rockets intact after a launch against orbit and the second mission of the specific booster was launched Friday after a tab ht from Cape Canaveral in September.

The second stage of Falcon 9 continued to circulate, firing its only Merlin engine twice to operate at a height of about 388 miles (625 kilometers) before releasing 890 kilograms of Iridium Next satellites one by one from a two- tiers dispenser mounted on the front end of the rocket.

Iridium's land controls quickly received signals from the new satellites, confirming their health after being circulated and ending a round of eight SpaceX launches to repopulate the Iridium network with 21st-century modernized spaceships.

Matt Desch, Iridium's Chief Executive Officer, told Spaceflight Now in a phone call after the launch he was excited about the mission, giving Iridium 75 new generation satellites higher data transfer, better voice communication and secondary missions in aircraft and shipping control.

"I still process it because it is so gratifying to complete something that is this epic and massive business," Desch said. "I'm obviously relieved, but I'm a little wistful that we don't do it anymore. It's fun to have these launches, and to make everything work successfully. But I also try to look forward to and think about all the cool things we should do with these satellites.

"I'm very proud of my team and proud of anyone who has been associated with Iridium, and who's been with us, Desch said in a phone call Friday from Vandenberg. "And I am very grateful to all the fans that we have made along the way, which have been encouraged by us."

Iridium ordered 81 Iridium Next satellites from Thales Alenia Space and Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems, which went up to build the spacecraft on a assembly line in Gilbert, Arizona. In June 2010, less than two weeks after the hunt for the Falcon 9 rocket, Iridium announced a $ 500 million contract for SpaceX to deliver the satellites.

At that time, Iridium and SpaceX had the goal of starting the first batch of satellites in 2015 and completing the upgraded network in 2017. Delays mainly driven by a number of Falcon 9 rocket accidents in 2015 and 2016 drove that schedule back a couple of years.

But ultimately, SpaceX 75 of Iridium Next satellites loaded in spot-on paths. The remaining six spacecraft will remain on the ground as spare parts but could be launched in the next few years to provide additional backups in the Iridium constellation.

"We saw the commitment, the passion, we saw the technical expertise they had accumulated with much experience people," said Desch about Iridium's decision to fly their satellites with SpaceX. "We saw the focus on (SpaceX CEO) Elon (Musk) and (SpaceX president) Gwynne (Shotwell) and some of the management teams we've worked with."

"I wouldn't say it was focused on reusability and the landing rocket and all These things, "said Desch." We were more focused on just their ability to successfully launch. I also knew they had time to develop. We still had a lot of work to do to build 75 satellites.

"I really appreciate that Gwynne was here at the launch today. We had a chance to remind a little and talk about how it was when we first met in 2006. And then we grew up together in many ways. Many people thought that we trying to do at that time was crazy and bold and difficult considering our history. People liked the same thing about them. Here we are so many years later, and we both achieved what we were trying to accomplish. So we will always be intertwined in our successes when we grew and became successful together, says Desch.

SpaceX plans about 18 Falcon missile missions in 2019

Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceX's Vice President for Building and Aviation Safety , says he plans about 18 Falcon rocket launches in 2019 last month.

"We have targeted 18 for next year, but one or less than years, which can easily happen," e Koenigsmann at a 5th press conference at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Crane SpaceX launches this year include two test flights from the company's spacecraft Crew Dragon, one without astronauts as early as February, followed by a demonstration mission to the International Space Station with two NASA astronauts aboard around mid-year. If these missions go on schedule and successfully, a third Crew Dragon capsule can start at the end of 2019 at the first operational crew rotational flight to the station, ending NASA's confidence in Russia for astronaut transport to Earth's orbit.

Also scheduled in 2019: Two Falcon Heavy launches this spring which carries an Arabsat communication satellite and a cluster of payload sponsored by the US Air Force. SpaceX also plans to launch a set of satellites for the company's planned Starlink broadband network, plus three unilateral Dragon cargo missions to the space station and another launch of a US Air Force GPS navigation satellite, following the first Falcon 9 launch of a GPS payload to close in 2018

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft stand at pad 39A. Credit: SpaceX

Several more Falcon 9 launches from Cape Canaveral this year are set to loft geostationary communications satellites starting with PSN 6, a video, voice and data relay vessel for the Indonesian operator PT Pasifik Satelit Nusantara. The PSN 6 satellite, made of SSL, is set for liftoff from Florida as soon as in mid-February along with a privately-developed lunar lander built in Israel called Beresheet, the Hebrew word for "genesis".

Other commercial geostationary communication loads that may be ready to launch on Falcon 9 rockets this year include the Amos 17 satellite for Israeli-based Spacecom Ltd., which is scheduled to lift a certain time between April and June and JCSAT 18 / Kacific 1 high throughput broadband satellite with Asia and the Pacific covered for launch in the third quarter – between July and September.

The SXM 7 satellite for Sirius XM Radio could also start at the end of 2019 or early 2020 on a Falcon 9 rocket.

In addition to the flights from SpaceX's two Florida launch plates, up to four Falcon 9 launches are planned from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California this year, following Friday's Iridium mission.

SpaceX's next launch from Vandenberg will carry Canada's Radarsat Constellation Mission, a set of three identical radar-forming satellites, circulating on board a Falcon 9 rocket. Two new Falcon 9 launches from California this year were launched to distribute a fleet of German military radar imaging satellites, and Argentina's SAOCOM 1B radar observation satellites are also planned for a Falcon 9 flight by 2019.

SpaceX also plans an aerospace airplane interruption test during the coming the months before the first astronauts fly the ship in orbit. The test flight from NASA's Kennedy Space Center will use a standard Falcon 9 rocket – in addition to the lack of a second-stage engine – launched from pad 39A, and the Crew Dragon canister activates its propellers about one minute after shutdown, then parachute into the Atlantic while the launch vehicle is expected to be split after the interrupt command.

Twenty-five Falcon rockets struck off in 2018, all successfully. It marked an increase from 18 Falcon rocket missions in 2017.

SpaceX has launched 40 straight successful missions since it lost a Falcon 9 rocket in a launch plate explosion in September 2016.

This year's launch schedule will see a change in types of assignment SpaceX is launched, a shift is also seen in the broader commercial launch industry.

Assignments carrying large telecommunications payloads to the geostation track, a perch over 22,000 miles (nearly 35,000 kilometers) across the equator, used to be the most common type of commercial launch. SpaceX carried out seven launches in the geostationary transfer path 2017 followed by eight such flights in 2018. This year, only four or five geostationary launches are on SpaceX's manifesto.

Rideshare mission carrying groups of smaller satellites is now more common as national

Iridium ready to debut new services

With a modernized satellite fleet now in space, Iridium is set to introduce a new era of expanded capacity, new services and a shift from spending money on development to earning revenue.

Iridium's communications network operates on 66 active satellites scattered among six orbital planes, plus spare parts, with satellite radio links to relate voice and data traffic without connecting via earth ground stations.

The company's first generation "Block 1" satellites, built by Lockheed Martin, launche d from 1997 to 2002 and designed for seven-year assignments. The majority of the fleet far exceeded the longevity and the new satellites have a dual mission to replace the company's aging and outdated 1990s constellation and as a vehicle to introduce new services to expand beyond Iridium's bread and butter phone and relay relay features.

The satellites launched on Friday led into the Iridium Fleet Plane 3, and the liftoff was timed to the other with an instantaneous launch window to just place the payloads in the right lane.

Iridium Next satellites were connected to their vending machines in a clean room at the Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, before being mated to the Falcon 9 rocket. Credit: Iridium

One of the new Iridium services, called Iridium Certus, will allow customers to send and receive higher bandwidth bands, including high-definition video and internet connections. Designed for ships, aircraft and other traveling users, Iridium Certus will provide customers in Iridium up to 1.4 megabits per second of the L-band connection, up from 128 kilobits per second available with the previous generation of satellites .

Each Iridium Next Satellite is also hosting host radio receivers for Aireon, a branch of Iridium, established in collaboration with flight control authorities in Europe and Canada. The Aireon instrument will track air traffic worldwide, including aircraft traveling outside the area of ​​conventional ground-based radars.

"We founded the foundation of Iridium Next back in 2007 and we started in earnest in about 2010. It was a lot of excitement when our first launch finally occurred two years ago on January 14, 2017, which was amazing and very important. last launch … is by far the most important milestone for everyone. "Desch said.

"I'm sure you can imagine some of the reasons for that," he continued. "The completion of a $ 3 billion update, the new services we can launch as Iridium Certus broadband, more efficient IoT (Internet of Things) and Aireon, the financial transformation it will allow for Iridium. But for me, this launch symbolizes something More importantly, it finally means to draw the dream that the founders of this system had more than 30 years ago, which means that our network will ultimately achieve the economic independence and security that makes a satellite network operator mature and successful and creates many opportunities for We as we have never had before. This is a great thing for our customers, our partners and sincerely, for the industry itself. "

Original backwards by Motorola, Iridium was a pioneer in the space and communications industry and fielded the first commercial satellite fleet of its size in orbit. But Iridium soon declared bankruptcy after launching its first set of satellites. A new company formed to take over Iridium's assets, including the satellites already in space, with a new business strategy after high prices and weak demand, judged the original Iridium concept.

Iridium now counts over one million subscribers on its customer list, and the US Department of Defense is one of the company's core customers, along with aviation and shipping operators, land transport and users of mining, forestry and oil and gas industries.

"What's next for Iridium Next? That answer is a lot," says Desch. "The first new service we will introduce is our special L-band broadband service labeled as Iridium Certus. The name Certus is actually Latin, and it means reliable, definite, safe and secure, all adjectives we believe will well define Iridium and our new unique broadband service.

Matt Desch, Iridium's CEO. Credit: Space Foundation

"We spent all 2018 testing and got Iridium Certus ready for the market, and the data trials are nearly complete. In fact, they are complete for some of our service providers, who are already starting to offer their maritime customers before the official commercial The official launch of Iridium Certus is very imminent. "

Desch said the Iridium Certus offer will provide broadband communications for the safety of maritime crews and pilots. In a conference call with reporters last week, he suggested that Iridium's new L-band broadband service would not compete with high throughput geostationary satellites and planned "mega-constellations" of hundreds or thousands of low-ground spacecraft in Ka-band and Ku-band. focused on the individual consumer market.

"Iridium Certus applies to the industry's vertical, from shipping and aviation to land mobile, and on the Internet of things," says Desch. "We focus the service on safety requirements and other important special broadband programs. We believe that this is a $ 700 million market today, that we come in, mainly served by a satellite operator (Inmarsat), and we believe our service will be superior in every way. "

for when a type of network that relays data, measurements and other signals between many objects around the world, ranging from distant weather bends to critical road, sea or air transport.

"Iridium Certus is not designed to compete with high-throughput satellite mega-constellations, or anyone using Ka, Ku or other bands," Desch said. "Iridium Certus is complementary. For example, in maritime applications today, L-band terminals are often installed as a companion to VSAT (Ku or Ka band) terminals on board for coverage and security purposes."

To their advantage, L -band communication usually requires a smaller earth receiver than Ku or Ka bands, and the L-band is less susceptible to interference from rain, fog and storms, making it ideal for critical services. But the Ku and Ka band offer higher bandwidth than the L band.

"In aviation applications, Iridium Certus will be in the cockpit that provides operational and safety communication at optimal levels, while the Ka and Ku band will be in the cab for anyone to use WiFi for entertainment services," says Desch.

From their initial 388km high installation round, Iridium Next satellites will use their own thrusters to climb a higher 476 mile high (780 km) to orbit, with six of the new spacecraft rendezvous with the last of the old Block 1 satellites. Earth controllers at Iridium's Network Operations Center in Leesburg, Virginia, will immediately switch traffic from the old satellite to the new boat without interruption to commercial service. In one procedure, the company calls a "slot swap".

The other four satellites launched Friday is intended to be spare parts in the Iridium fleet.

"This will give the total number of new Iridium satellites in circulation to 75 and after a careful testing and validation process lasting several weeks, we will officially complete our new constellation," Desch said before launch.

The engineers deactivate Iridium's recurring satellites when the new relay stations come into circulation. Most of the old satellites have been operated from the orbit to fall back to the Earth's atmosphere, and all will undergo a procedure called "passivation", where their batteries and fuel tanks are drained, rendering them inert and reducing the risk of explosion in the future.

Iridium flares, a popular phenomenon of celestial viewers over the past 20 years, will end when the last of the old satellites are retired. The Lockheed Martin-built Iridium satellites have silver-coated Teflon antennas that behave reflecting and reflecting the sunlight down to earth just before sunrise and just after sunset.

The spots are predictable – to the other – and the satellite is briefly one of the brightest objects in the night sky. Sky-watching devices and websites can provide the times for upcoming Iridium spots anywhere in the world.

The Iridium Next satellites designed by Thales Alenia Space have another antenna shape that does not give rise to stains.

"It's a sad time for the global flare-watching community," said Desch. "It will be gone."

Aireon preps for air navigation trials in the North Atlantic

The air tracking service managed by Aireon will also take a big step towards start operations with Friday launch.

Aireon says the service, which uses Harris Corp.-based receivers to collect position data for aircraft, will ensure that air traffic controllers know where aircraft worldwide, reducing blind spots in busy transoceanic roads, improving safety and fuel efficiency.

The aeronautical authorities in Canada, Ireland, Italy, Denmark and the United Kingdom are part of the Aireon joint venture with Iridium, and air traffic management organizations in Africa, the United States and the rest of Europe are also preparing to use the system.

"With the complete Iridium Next constellation, Aireon will have real-time air monitoring data in comparison to the ground system, but for the whole planet, I ncluding over the oceans and remote areas where it has never existed before," says Don Thoma, Aireon's CEO.

Artist's concepts for Iridium Next satellites that provide aircraft coverage Credit: Aireon

The Aireon system works by collecting position data transmitted by aircraft equipped with ADS-B technology.The automatic monitoring broadcast or ADS-B technology enables one aircraft to determine their location via satellite navigation and immediately transmit the position.

It reduces the air traffic controller's confidence in obsolete track radars to follow the aircraft's movements, but ADS-B receivers on the ground have the same limitations as radars – they do not allow uninterrupted tracking of aircraft over oceans and other remote regions.

When fleeing gplan flies out of the radar area, pilots are normally instructed to maintain a certain course and height, which ensures 30 to 100 miles (about 50-150 kilometers) of separation between aircraft for safety purposes. With real-time comprehensive monitoring, these requirements can be switched off.

The Aireon receivers of each Iridium Next satellite are designed to collect the same ADS-B signals already transmitted by most aircraft. US and European regulators have demanded that all commercial passenger aircraft be equipped with ADS-B technology by 2020.

"This was the driving force behind the creation of Aireon," Thoma said. "It has been clear for many years that a complete and truly global aircraft monitoring system is a must, not only for the efficiency of air traffic control but for the safety of anyone traveling by air."

"Aireon will support key security enhancements, including improved control of the situation, reduction of aircraft clearance, and elimination of security deficiencies due to lack of real-time monitoring," says Thoma. "It will reduce the response time of response time to normal situations, such as weather deviations or pilot navigation errors , and it will of course improve search and rescue time.

"The use of Aireon will improve air traffic by optimizing flight paths and improved traffic flows. Real-time monitoring will allow airlines to plan and fly more direct routes and save significant amounts of fuel."

According to Thoma, certification by Aireon The system is complete in March, enabling operational trials using satellite ADS-B position data starting in April in the North Atlantic for the busy air travel corridor between North America and Europe.

Canadian and British Air Navigation Services will monitor these trials, while the Federal Aviation Administration is looking to perform similar operational tests in the Caribbean.

"The final launch is very significant Aireon," Thoma said. "The delivery of the last 10 payloads will complete the Aireon network, and when the Aireon payloads are integrated into the constellation, our team of engineers and startup customers will complete a series of tests to provide the final validation and certification of operational control systems for flight control. . "

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @ StephenClark1 .

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