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If Iridium’s final tranche of next generation satellites reaches orbit as planned on Jan. 8, the launch will clear the way for its aviation partner, Aireon LLC, to begin an aircraft tracking demonstration over the North Atlantic Ocean.
The Falcon 9 launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, is planned for 10:48 Eastern time.
With 1,500 daily flights, the North Atlantic is the world’s busiest oceanic air corridor. Since most flights are out of range of ground-based radar, air traffic controllers must separate planes far apart and direct them along carefully orchestrated routes.