December 6, 2019

Photos: Iridium satellites prepped for Falcon 9 flight


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The second set of Iridium’s next-generation satellites to launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket were prepared for liftoff inside a climate-controlled clean room at Vandenberg Air Force Base over the last few weeks.

The 10 Iridium satellites were trucked from their factory near Phoenix two-at-a-time to Vandenberg in May and early June, then bolted to their SpaceX-built deployment mechanisms, fueled with hydrazine propellant, and enclosed inside the Falcon 9’s clamshell-like fairing.

Built by Thales Alenia Space in partnership with Orbital ATK, the satellites each with about 1,896 pounds (860 kilograms) with fuel. The launch set for Sunday follows another Falcon 9 mission in January that delivered the first 10 Iridium Next satellites to orbit.

Iridium ordered 81 of the upgraded satellites to replace its aging fleet, and SpaceX is under contract to launch 75 of them.

Two of the Iridium Next satellites inside the SpaceX clean room at Vandenberg Air Force Base. Credit: Iridium
The Iridium Next satellites mounted to their two-tier dispenser mechanism. Credit: Iridium
The Iridium Next satellites mounted to their two-tier dispenser mechanism. Credit: Iridium
Credit: Iridium
The 10 Iridium Next communications satellites slated to launch Sunday from California were recently encapsulated inside the Falcon 9 rocket’s payload fairing. Credit: Iridium
Credit: Iridium
Credit: Iridium
Credit: Iridium

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