Iridium Communications Inc. (Nasdaq:IRDM) and Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) are pleased to announce that the Falcon 9 will be a major provider of launch services for Iridium NEXT, Iridium’s next-generation satellite constellation. The $492 million contract, while being the largest single commercial launch deal ever signed, nonetheless represents a new benchmark in cost-effective satellite delivery to space.
Iridium operates the world’s largest commercial satellite constellation, and is the only communications company to offer mobile voice and data services across the entire globe. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launch vehicle will carry multiple Iridium NEXT satellites per vehicle, inserting the satellites into a low-earth orbit (LEO) as Iridium replaces its current satellite constellation. The Iridium NEXT satellites are set to launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB) in California between 2015 and 2017.
The contract stipulates that SpaceX will provide launch services to Iridium over a two-year period starting in early 2015. Iridium is also in discussions with, and expects to contract with, at least one additional launch services provider. Launch services are included in the total estimated cost of $2.9 billion for Iridium NEXT.