SpaceX is about to reach the end of its long and fruitful mission with Iridium. The private rocket company is getting ready to launch its last batch of Iridium NEXT satellites tomorrow morning.
“This is the eighth and final set of satellites in a series of 75 total satellites that SpaceX will launch for Iridium’s next generation global satellite constellation,” SpaceX announced on its website.
Dubbed Iridium-8, tomorrow’s launch will loft 10 Iridium NEXT satellites into orbit, with liftoff currently targeted for 10:31 a.m. ET. The satellites will ride into space atop a Falcon 9 rocket launching from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
According to SpaceX, this is the same Falcon 9 booster that flew the Telstar 18 VANTAGE satellite into orbit on September 10, 2018. At the time, the rocket soared to the skies from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and landed on the “Of Course I Still Love You” drone ship stationed in the Atlantic Ocean, as reported by the Inquisitr.
This time around, the Falcon 9 will blast off from the West Coast and later attempt a landing of the rocket’s first stage on the SpaceX “Just Read the Instructions” drone ship deployed in the Pacific Ocean.
To watch the live webcast of tomorrow’s launch, tune in to the SpaceX YouTube channel at the link below.
This final launch of Iridium NEXT satellites was originally slated to take place earlier this week, with Iridium CEO Matt Desch initially pointing to a January 8 liftoff date. The launch was later pushed to Friday, with a backup date scheduled for Saturday, Desch announced via Twitter on Tuesday.
SpaceX confirmed the news on Wednesday, when the company tweeted that the January 11 launch window had received range approval.
Approved on the range – now targeting January 11 launch of Iridium-8 from Vandenberg Air Force Base. Weather is 60% favorable for the instantaneous launch opportunity at 7:31 a.m. PST, 15:31 UTC.
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) January 8, 2019
Earlier today, SpaceX provided another launch update by sharing a photo of the Falcon 9 rocket and its Iridium NEXT multi-satellite payload on their SLC-4E launch pad at Vandenberg.
Falcon 9 and 10 Iridium NEXT satellites vertical on SpaceX’s California launch pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base. Tomorrow’s instantaneous launch window is at 7:31 a.m. PST, 15:31 UTC → https://t.co/gtC39uBC7z pic.twitter.com/z3fv7j11xH
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) January 11, 2019
As Space points out, “the Iridium Next constellation requires an instantaneous launch window in order for the satellites to properly reach their orbits.”
The latest SpaceX Iridium launch, Iridium-7, occurred on July 25, 2018, when another Falcon 9 rocket lofted 10 Iridium NEXT satellites from the same Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg, Spaceflight Insider reported at the time.
Just like in the case of Iridium-7, the upcoming launch will ferry the satellites to a parking orbit. Once this target has been achieved, the Falcon 9 second stage will begin to deploy the Iridium NEXT satellites approximately one hour after launch.
With the Iridium-8 mission soon under its belt, SpaceX will have delivered into orbit a total constellation of 66 working Iridium NEXT satellites, plus nine backups.