The first 10 Iridium NEXT communications satellites, each bearing an Aireon space-based ADS-B antenna-and-receiver payload on its underside, will ship to Vandenberg Air Force Base in California within the next two weeks in preparation for launch in July.
Cyriel Kronenburg, VP aviation services for Aireon – a McClean, Virginia-based consortium containing Iridium and four air navigation services providers (ANSPs), which will provide space-based ADS-B data feeds to ANSP customers – says 12 NEXT satellites “are currently in final production or are ready” at Orbital Sciences’ satellite payload-integration facility in Arizona.
After a planned initial launch in mid-2015 of two NEXT satellites for testing fell through for political reasons (the Dnepr rocket launcher to be used was a Ukrainian-Russian collaborative design but the launch provider ISC Kosmotras was Russian), Iridium and Aireon “had to move to our back-up plan,” says Kronenburg.
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