Iridium Next Satellites Will Launch On SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Rocket Next Week

Posted: Dec 30 2016, 6:51am CST | by , in Latest Science News


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Iridium Next Satellites Will Launch on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Rocket Next Week
The first 10 Iridium Next satellites were encapsulated inside the clamshell-like nose cone of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket booster earlier this week. Credit: Iridium via Spaceflightnow

First 10 Iridium Next satellites encapsulated inside the SpaceX’s Falcon 9 booster will launch as soon as next week

Ten satellites for Iridium’s data network are fueled and encapsulate with their module inside the SpaceX9 booster for launch in the coming week. The launch would happen from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Though, the target launch date of SpaceX9 and Iridium is not announced, but the scientists plan to have the satellite ready for takeoff by Jan 7, but the schedule is preliminary.

The target launch date delayed the approval of SpaceX by the federal aviation administration, because it had to go through an investigation due to explosion of Falcon 9 rocket on a launch pad on Sep. 1 at Cape Canaveral. The explosion destroyed Amos 6 satellite that was waiting for takeoff after a few days. Since then SpaceX missions were grounded

The California-based launch company, founded and headed by Elon Musk was hopeful, that the launch service will resume at the end of 2016, but Falcon 9s flight was extended to January due to investigation, launch preparations, and the FAA’s review of the Sept. 1

Iridium satellite’s launch was next to SpaceX’s launch on Sep 1. During that time, the crews at Kennedy Space Center’s launch pad 39A in Florida are constructing and modifying space shuttle launch complex that will support falcon 9 flights in the coming month.

After Sep 1 explosion, the launch facility used by Space X from Cape Canaveral, Complex 40 got damaged. This was the first biggest ground accident at Florida spaceport since the space age started. SpaceX launches will now happen from Florida from pad 39A.

Iridium’s launch from California’s central Coast is in line, because the preparations are going to complete at Space Launch Complex-4-East, near the hillside. It would happen inside the Space X’s hanger.

Some technical staff from satellite-builders Thales Alenia Space, and Orbital ATK filled Iridium’s 10 satellites with hydrazine fuel that’s used to maneuver the spacecraft in the orbit.

Space X’s developed module will have the satellites mounted on it for Iridium’s mission. There is a contract that includes a launch of 70 Iridium satellites till 2018 that would happen in the batches of 10 satellites at a time, according to Spaceflightnow.

But, the launch plans of Iridium’s spare satellites are not known yet. Satellites’ mounted system consists of two tiers with 5 satellites in each tier. Space X’s ground crew has stacked two tiers, and placed the satellites inside the Falcon 9’s payload which has Iridium’s log with it.

Falcon 9 will have to go through a test flight named static fire on the launch pad, and then Iridium’s 10 satellites will be ready for the takeoff. The test flight is similar to the one that caused explosion in Florida on Sep 1.

When the Falcon 9’s second stage arrives at a polar orbit around 625 kilometers above the Earth, the 10 satellites will separate from the module to start their three months tests to observes spacecraft’s health, and function, its communication link between the ground, and inter satellites, and also tracking the global air and traffic.

The satellite will replace company’s 66 satellites by maneuvering into Iridium constellation at 780 km altitude.

A launch in 2017 will only have 5 Iridium next satellites. The remaining capacity of Falcon 9 will be controlled by two U.S.-German gravity research spacecraft that is a follow up to the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment, or GRACE, satellites launched in 2002.

This follow up was expected to launch on a Russian-Ukrainian Dnepr rocket, but the plan is in doubt in the wake of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and military activity in eastern Ukraine. According to Russian authority, they will discontinue the Dnepr launches.

The officials from the German Research Center for Geo-sciences in Potsdam, and GFZ, changed the GRACE-FO mission to a Falcon 9 rocket launch. This research center in Germany will partner with NASA in this mission.

The third Falcon 9 mission will happen in January from the west Coast Complex. The Falcon 9’s debut happened in June 2010 that was considered a failure, excluding vehicle lost on the launch of Sep. 1.

SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk said CNBC last month that the scientists think that they know the cause of sep1 accident. The investigators believe that the accident happened while filling the rocket with super cold liquid oxygen in its second stage. When Falcon 9 was ready for the test, the explosion happened a few minutes before that test.

The oxygen got solid due to freezing that caused high pressure for helium tank, and it burst, separating the upper part, and converting the remaining part of the rocket into a fire. Helium is used in the tanks for creating pressure for the flight.

The engineers hope that they are able to fix this problem by changing the fueling process without causing any hardware changes that would have delayed SpaceX’s mission for long.

Iridium’s future launch would be a big incident as it involves huge cost of around $3 billion for new satellite system. The old satellite system is not working properly, because it was developed between 1997 and 2002.

The launch includes several challenges, like orbit determination knowledge design, encryption design, integration and verification test planning, planning for on orbit acceptance activities. However, the engineers got successful and now the satellites are ready that would affect the satellites mobile communication, stated Joel Rademacher, director of systems engineering for the Iridium Next program.

Each satellite has a weight of 1900 pounds, and the weight will increase up to 20’000 pounds after its connection with multi spacecraft dispenser. It would be the heaviest payload launched by Space X till date.

SpaceX will soon recover the Falcon 9’s first phase booster that would happen in the south of Vandenberg in the Pacific Ocean, that’s a struggle made by company to get expertise in vertical rocket landings.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
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