Now, SpaceX is ready to return to space for the first time in months with the Iridium-1 mission. SpaceX’s revised Falcon rocket will deliver 10 satellites to LEO (low-Earth orbit) for mobile voice/data communications company Iridium. This initial batch of satellites will grow to encompass a “constellation” of at least 70 satellites that will form the basis of the company’s Iridium Next network.
“Iridium NEXT will enable the development of new and innovative products and solutions across Iridium's vast partner ecosystem,” writes SpaceX. “Additionally, Iridium Certus, the next-generation multi-service communications platform enabled by Iridium NEXT, will deliver faster speeds and higher throughputs across multiple industry verticals.”
Iridium has contracted with SpaceX to deliver 10 satellites into orbit at a time, which means that there will be another six launches after this initial salvo between now and early 2018. SpaceX says that it will launch at least 27 rockets during 2017, compared to a mere eight during 2016. Also on tap for 2017 is the debut flight of the company’s Falcon Heavy launch vehicle. That’s a pretty aggressive launch schedule for Elon Musk and company to tackle, so we’ll be interested to see if SpaceX can remain on course and perhaps reuse one of those recovered Falcon boosters for a new launch.
The Iridium-1 mission is expected to blast off today from Space Launch Complex 4E at the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The Falcon rocket is scheduled to lift off at 9:54:39 am PST, barring any last-minute weather complications or hardware malfunctions.
It should be noted that SpaceX will attempt to land its reusable Falcon rocket on a floating drone barge in the Pacific Ocean.