SpaceX is set to host another Iridium NEXT launch this month from Vandenberg Air Force Base, with the upcoming seventh launch in the series slated to mark a milestone for the space exploration company.
For the Iridium-7 mission, 10 NEXT satellites are set to ride aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket into orbit. The launch is scheduled for 4:39 a.m. Wednesday, July 25. If the launch goes as planned, it will be the first Falcon 9 to take off from the West Coast with a Block 5 booster, which features a fully reusable first stage.
As SpaceX has done with past launches — including the first three of the Iridium NEXT series in 2017 — the company will attempt to land and recover the rocket’s booster on a drone ship in the Pacific Ocean.
“Satellites are all fueled and ready to go,” Iridium CEO Matt Desch tweeted July 10, which is when the company announced the current target date of July 25 for the launch. “A few days longer to wait will probably just confuse [the marine layer] anyway. Looking forward to getting these next 10 satellites into orbit (but not looking forward to a 1am wakeup call).”
Iridium NEXT is the company's $3 billion next-generation mobile, global satellite network.
Over the course of the first six Iridium launches — four in 2017 and two this year — the company has put 55 satellites into orbit, with another 20 still planned for deployment, including the 10 set to take off this month.
The company has said that it intends to complete the constellation this year, likely with just one more launch following the Iridium-7 mission.
The most recent SpaceX launch from Vandenberg occurred May 22. That day, the company launched a Falcon 9 rocket as part of the Iridium-6 mission that carried five NEXT satellites into orbit, and also sent up two satellites as part of NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On, or GRACE-FO, mission.