Those of you following @IridiumBoss Matt Desch on Twitter will already be aware that the much-anticipated Iridium-8 launch is now set for tomorrow, Tuesday 8th January 2019 at 7:48 AM PT (15:48 UTC)*, to give SpaceX an extra day to prep for the momentous event. There has naturally been a lot of excitement about the completion of Iridium’s constellation, but what does it mean for the future of satellite communications?
The Space Economy
Iridium is the only mobile voice and data satellite communications network that spans the entire globe pole to pole. It enables connections between people, organisations and assets to and from anywhere in the world, in real time. Wireless Innovation’s partnership with Iridium helps us to deliver innovative end-to-end solutions, tailored for each of our client’s specific needs, to provide a complete view of their data and enable better business decisions.
SpaceX are currently helping providers to launch satellites in their thousands, which means that the total number of satellites in orbit is set to double by 2027; reaching almost 20,000.
These satellites are bringing cost-effective internet connectivity to businesses and individuals in remote and challenging locations where it was previously unavailable, opening up a host of new business opportunities and enabling more effective business management. The Economist anticipates that this increased accessibility will see the space economy grow from £275 billion (in 2016) to nearly £1 trillion by 2040. New internet satellites will account for half this increase.
Iridium NEXT-8 Launch Campaign
Approaching the end of a two-year campaign, Iridium has been working with SpaceX to replace their existing satellite constellation. This involves sending 75 Iridium Next satellites into space on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket during a series of eight launches.
65 of those satellites have already been placed into orbit and, to complete deployment of Iridium’s second-generation constellation, the final ten will lift off this month from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base. Nine of the total NEXT 75 satellites launched will serve as on-orbit spares and another six will be left on the ground to serve as further spares, in case they are needed during the life-cycle of their new constellation.
Once the final ten are launched they will deploy into the same orbital plane, within a month, to complete a 100% Iridium NEXT network.
What Benefits Will It Bring?
Iridium’s global satellite constellation refresh heralds an exciting era for Wireless Innovation and our clients. This historic project is not only one of the most significant commercial space ventures, but the completion will create an unrivalled technological platform for innovation in data and communication solutions.
The power of this constellation will facilitate a host of advanced services, including Iridium Certus, which will utilise even smaller and more cost-effective terminals, turbocharging Iridium satellite connectivity and providing the world’s fastest global L-band broadband service. Wireless Innovation will be using Iridium Certus to deliver enhanced client data solutions for a variety of applications in both the private and public sectors.
Iridium Certus Land will ensure businesses can deploy mobilised satellite communications everywhere on the planet. Setting a new standard for governments, corporate organisations and individuals, the unrivalled network of terminals and service solutions is designed to allow users to extend their use of mobile networks into remote areas with highly reliable coverage. Its enhanced mobility allows vehicles and personnel to remain in contact while on the move, quickly report position and situation data and broadcast messages across Iridium Certus terminals.
The unique constellation of low Earth orbit satellites offers many benefits over distant Geostationary satellite networks. For example, it provides easy integration with cellular, internet, Land Mobile Radio and location-based applications, there’s no need to deploy costly terminals or ground-based infrastructure and the service remains excellent even in extreme weather conditions. Omni-directional antennas automatically connect with the closest Iridium satellite wherever they are positioned in the sky, which greatly simplifies the set-up of solutions that use the service.
By providing better value and more reach than any other mobile wireless network, Iridium Certus is the ideal single platform to facilitate vital operations including remote transportation services; specialist military operations and training; NGO disaster response and humanitarian relief; and first responders and the media.
The completion of this Iridium NEXT constellation is redefining the capabilities of mobile satellite communications, powering Iridium Certus to deliver the next-generation of broadband, critical safety, disaster recovery, L-band communications and data solutions to businesses and individuals in every industry, all over the world.
The Ultimate Launch Soundtrack
Earlier this year Iridium created their very first satellite launch playlist on Spotify. They’ve been collating a new playlist to commemorate the final launch, featuring songs that will complement the SpaceX launch webcast and reflect the Iridium story.
Space enthusiasts all over the Twitterverse have been sending song ideas to @IridiumComm over the last few weeks. The WIL team posted a few suggestions, so we’re looking forward to hearing what’s made the final cut on launch day! If you’re Tweeting about the launch, be sure to use #Iridium8 and follow us @wi_ltd and we’ll share your posts.
*UPDATE 08/01/2019: @IridiumBoss Matt Desch has posted this tweet about the new launch date:
 The Economist, 8th December 2018, https://www.economist.com/briefing/2018/12/08/satellites-may-connect-the-entire-world-to-the-internet
 The Economist, 6th December 2018, https://www.economist.com/leaders/2018/12/08/the-coming-of-low-earth-orbit-satellites