Iridium to partner with Relativity Space
On June 24, Los Angeles, CA-based Relativity Space announced that McLean, VA-based Iridium Communications Inc. has signed a launch contract to deliver satellites to orbit. The contract includes flexible timing for up to six dedicated launches to deploy Iridium’s ground spare satellites to Low Earth Orbit (LEO). The launches will take place on an as-needed basis, determined by Iridium and utilizing Relativity’s Terran 1, the world’s first 3D printed launch vehicle. Launches are planned for no earlier than 2023.
The second-generation Iridium constellation was completed in January 2019 and consists of 66 operational satellites and 9 in-orbit spares. An additional six satellites were manufactured as ground spares and remain in storage. Should the need arise to launch a ground spare, Relativity’s Terran 1 offers a cost-effective, efficient response time option for Iridium to quickly deploy a satellite to one of its six orbital planes. Relativity’s disruptive large-scale robotic 3D printing technology enables launches within months, instead of years.
“The upgraded Iridium satellite constellation is operating incredibly well, but it’s prudent to have a cost-effective launch option available for future spare delivery,” said Matt Desch CEO of Iridium. “Relativity’s Terran 1 fits our launch needs to LEO well from both a price, responsiveness and capability perspective. And we know based on our previous experience that there are great benefits to engaging with a provider early on during development of the launch vehicle and it evolving around our particular needs.”
On June 24, Relativity also announced a Right of Entry Agreement with the United States Air Force, 30th Space Wing, for development of rocket launch facilities at Vandenberg Air Force Base. These launch site facilities will support flights to the polar orbits needed for the Iridium satellite constellation.