Iridium Museum

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History of Iridium

Take a look back at Iridium’s unique history, from its early days within Motorola, through its infamous bankruptcy, to the rise of the global corporation that Iridium became.

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1980s

The Birth of Iridium

01 01 1987 Company Milestone

The Concept for the Iridium Global Constellation is Born

Motorola Strategic Electronics Division engineers Bary Bertiger, Ken Peterson, and Ray Leopold began plotting an outline for what would later become the first global satellite communications network – Iridium. The Iridium concept, conceived in 1987 in Chandler, Arizona, envisioned a satellite-based telephone system that would have commercial applications and that would provide worldwide coverage using one handheld, portable device. This became what was ultimately known as the “Iridium System.”

07 14 1988 Company Milestone

The First Draft of the Iridium Constellation is Created

The “Global Personal Satellite Communications System” was the first draft of the Iridium constellation created by Bary Bertiger, Ken Peterson, and Ray Leopold. The original one-page document, which was later included in the patent filing, now sits in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C.

EARLY 1990s

Designing the Network

06 26 1990 Company Milestone

Motorola Announces the First Global Satellite System – Iridium

Motorola announced Iridium, the first global satellite communications system at a press conference at the Hayden Planetarium in New York City. Motorola held three other simultaneous press conferences announcing the worldwide system in Beijing, London, and Melbourne.

12 03 1990 Industry

Motorola Files Iridium with the FCC for Deployment of the System

Motorola filed an application with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for the deployment of the Iridium system.

06 14 1991 Business Update

Motorola Incorporates Iridium, which becomes Iridium Inc.

Motorola established Iridium Inc. as a separate entity from Motorola SatCom to develop and deploy the satellite network. Besides Motorola, which retained a 20.1 percent ownership stake, other major partners included Germany’s Vebacom (10 percent), Korea Mobile Telecommunications (4.4 percent), Sprint Corporation (4.4 percent), and Italy’s STET (3.8 percent).

01 01 1992 Company Milestone

The Iridium Constellation is Redesigned for 66 Satellites

At conception, the Iridium constellation was thought to need 77 satellites to provide truly global coverage to the planet. In 1992, the plan was redesigned to include just 66 satellites after engineers discovered they could do the job. Although the company was named for the 77th element on the periodic table, the name Iridium stuck with the final system.

08 01 1992 Industry

FCC Grants an Experimental License for the Iridium System

An experimental license was granted by the U.S. FCC to construct and launch five demonstration satellites Iridium planned for launch in 1997. In the same year, the World Administrative Radio Conference (WARC) decided to work towards establishing guidelines to regulate worldwide radio spectrum rights and facilitate the building of Iridium systems.

07 29 1993 Business Update

Iridium Stock Transferred from Motorola to Private Investors

Iridium Inc., the consortium of investors involved in the Iridium project, issued an invitation for additional private equity investment, and in July 1993, stock previously belonging to Motorola was trasnferred to private investors. Subsequently, Iridium Inc. issued a $3.37 billion contract to Motorola’s Satellite Communications Division to purchase the rights to the Iridium space system. In addition, an agreement was executed with Motorola for operation and maintenance of the Iridium system after initial satellite deployment.

LATE 1990s

Launching the Constellation

01 31 1995 Industry

FCC Grants the Operational License for the Iridium System

Motorola was granted the authorization by the FCC to launch and operate a 66-satellite system with 12 in-orbit spares.

04 25 1995 Company Milestone

The Iridium Satellite Communications System’s Patent is Granted

Two years after Motorola filed for a patent, US5410728A was issued for the Iridium satellite communications system.

07 29 1996 Company Milestone

Iridium Inc. Changes Corporate Form, Becomes Iridium LLC

Iridium Inc. changed its corporate form, becoming a Delaware limited liability company, Iridium LLC.

05 05 1997 Satellites

First Iridium Satellites Are Launched, Beginning Construction of the Constellation

The first launch of Iridium satellites took place from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, carrying the first five satellites on a Delta II rocket. These satellites were the first in the 66-satellite constellation which would later become the first to provide global communications coverage.

06 08 1997 Satellites

Iridium Satellite Launch 2

Launch Vehicle: Proton-K/17S40, Launch Site: Baikonur Cosmodrome

07 09 1997 Satellites

Iridium Satellite Launch 3

Launch Vehicle: Delta II 7920-10C, Launch Site: Vandenberg Air Force Base

08 16 1997 Industry

First Iridium Flare is Spotted – What is this Phenomenon?

When the first Iridium Flare was seen, it was mistaken for a meteor. Soon, however, astronomers discovered that the phenomenon was in fact the sun bouncing off the main mission antennas of Iridium satellites, producing bright, beautiful flares in the sky. Astronomers and enthusiasts around the world quickly became fascinated with catching Iridium Flares, tracking when and where they would appear next!

08 21 1997 Satellites

Iridium Satellite Launch 4

Launch Vehicle: Delta II 7920-10C, Launch Site: Vandenberg Air Force Base

09 14 1997 Satellites

Iridium Satellite Launch 5

Launch Vehicle: Proton-K/17S40, Launch Site: Baikonur Cosmodrome

09 27 1997 Satellites

Iridium Satellite Launch 6

Launch Vehicle: Delta II 7920-10C, Launch Site: Vandenberg Air Force Base

11 09 1997 Satellites

Iridium Satellite Launch 7

Launch Vehicle: Delta II 7920-10C, Launch Site: Vandenberg Air Force Base

11 10 1997 Company Milestone

The ITU Assigns Iridium +8816 Country Code Calling Prefix

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) granted Iridium “country status” with a country code calling prefix of +8816.

12 08 1997 Satellites

Iridium Satellite Launch 8

Launch Vehicle: Chang Zheng 2C-III/SD, Launch Site: Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center

12 15 1997 Products & Services

The First Successful On-Orbit Test Conversation Occurs

The first successful on-orbit test conversation took place during the week of December 15, 1997. It crosslinked two Iridium satellites and a Gateway to a pager, Iridium Demonstration Unit (IDU), and a land-based telephone via a public switched telephone network.

12 20 1997 Satellites

Iridium Satellite Launch 9

Launch Vehicle: Delta II 7920-10C, Launch Site: Vandenberg Air Force Base

02 18 1998 Satellites

Iridium Satellite Launch 10

Launch Vehicle: Delta II 7920-10C, Launch Site: Vandenberg Air Force Base

03 25 1998 Satellites

Iridium Satellite Launch 11

Launch Vehicle: Chang Zheng 2C-III/SD, Launch Site: Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center

03 30 1998 Satellites

Iridium Satellite Launch 12

Launch Vehicle: Delta II 7920-10C, Launch Site: Vandenberg Air Force Base

04 07 1998 Satellites

Iridium Satellite Launch 13

Launch Vehicle: Proton-K/17S40, Launch Site: Baikonur Cosmodrome

05 02 1998 Satellites

Iridium Satellite Launch 14

Launch Vehicle: Chang Zheng 2C-III/SD, Launch Site: Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center

05 17 1998 Satellites

Iridium Satellite Launch 15

Launch Vehicle: Delta II 7920-10C, Launch Site: Vandenberg Air Force Base

08 19 1998 Satellites

Iridium Satellite Launch 16

Launch Vehicle: Chang Zheng 2C-III/SD, Launch Site: Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center

09 08 1998 Satellites

Iridium Satellite Launch 17

Launch Vehicle: Delta II 7920-10C, Launch Site: Vandenberg Air Force Base

11 01 1998 Products & Services

Iridium Launches Commercial Service on the First Global Network

Iridium commercially launched the first global satellite network with its world-wide voice services. The ceremonial first call over the network was made by then-U.S. Vice President Al Gore to Gilbert Grosvenor, the great-grandson of Alexander Graham Bell and chairman of the National Geographic Society. The launch of Iridium voice services was followed shortly by global paging services, which launched commercially just two weeks later, on November 15, 1998.

11 06 1998 Satellites

Iridium Satellite Launch 18

Launch Vehicle: Delta II 7920-10C, Launch Site: Vandenberg Air Force Base

12 19 1998 Satellites

Iridium Satellite Launch 19

Launch Vehicle: Chang Zheng 2C-III/SD, Launch Site: Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center

06 11 1999 Satellites

Iridium Satellite Launch 20

Launch Vehicle: Chang Zheng 2C-III/SD, Launch Site: Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center

08 13 1999 Business Update

Iridium LLC Files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

Less than a year after commercial service launch, the global communications company files for bankruptcy protection. Although the innovative products and reliable services were technically successful, they were positioned against but could not compete with the smaller, lower-cost cell phones that had overtaken the market during Iridium’s development phases.

2000s

Phoenix Rising

07 31 2000 Company Milestone

Iridium Satellite LLC is Founded in Anticipation of Acquisition

Iridium Satellite LLC was formed with the intent to later purchase the assets of Iridium LLC from bankruptcy and re-start the business. This company would go on to become the successful organization that still owns and operates the world’s only truly global satellite network today.

11 16 2000 Business Update

Bankruptcy Court Approves Purchase of Iridium LLC

After declaring bankruptcy in 1999 and with the planned deorbit of the Iridium constellation by the end of 2000, Iridium LLC’s assets were approved for purchase by a bankruptcy court. Although the Iridium satellites and other assets are estimated to have cost around $6B, the investors bought the firm for approximately $25M. As part of the initial cost-cutting efforts to help Iridium rebound, Iridium Satellite LLC contracted with Boeing to operate and maintain the satellite constellation, who did the job for $3.5M per month, compared to Motorola, who was charging the company $45M per month for the same services. At the time of this purchase, Iridium planned to relaunch service within 60 days. Ultimately, commercial service relaunched on March 30, 2001.

12 05 2000 Company Milestone

U.S. Government Saves the Iridium Constellation with a Contract

 

Days before the planned deorbiting of the Iridium satellite constellation, the U.S. Department of Defense awarded Iridium Satellite LLC a $72M contract for 24 months of unlimited airtime for 20,000 government users on the Iridium Network. The contract, awarded through the DoD’s Defense Information Systems Agency, included options that would expand the contract to 2007, bringing its total value to $252 million.

12 11 2000 Company Milestone

Iridium Satellite LLC Took Control of Iridium LLC’s Assets

Iridium Satellite LLC officially acquired the assets of Iridium LLC pursuant to an asset purchase agreement. This move put Iridium Satellite LLC in control of the satellites and network, which remained operational through the completion of the Iridium NEXT constellation replacement program.

03 30 2001 Products & Services

Iridium Relaunches Commercial Service After Declaring Bankruptcy

Just a few months after signing a contract with the U.S. Department of Defense and under new leadership, Iridium Satellite LLC emerges from bankruptcy and relaunches commercial satellite services. This saved the Iridium constellation from destruction and put it back in operation, serving both commercial and government customers.

02 13 2002 Satellites

Five Remaining First-Generation Spare Satellites are Launched

Early in its new life, Iridium Satellite LLC launched five of the remaining seven first-generation spare satellites on a Boeing Delta 2 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The spare satellites were part of the bankruptcy proceedings, but launching them demonstrated the company’s commitment to customers and the service. Following the launch, Iridium announced its expectation for the in-orbit spares, in addition to other efficiency efforts made to the constellation and ground infrastructure, to extend the network’s lifespan to last to at least 2010. The original expected lifespan of the satellite constellation was projected to be just five to seven years.

06 20 2002 Satellites

Final Set of First-Generation Satellites are Launched

Iridium launched the final two spare first-generation satellites on a Rokot/Briz KM from Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Russia. This launch completed the first Iridium launch campaign, which began in 1997 and sent a total of 95 satellites into Low-Earth Orbit.

01 13 2003 Business Update

U.S. DoD Exercises First Option to Renew Iridium Services

The U.S. Department of Defense exercised the first of three renewal options from its original $72M, two-year contract, extending service for another year. The extension continued to provide unlimited airtime to 20,000 government subscribers using Iridium mobile voice, paging, and data services. The original contract, awarded by the Defense Information Systems Agency in December 2000, included five one-year options that would allow the U.S. government to extend the deal through 2007.

07 15 2003 Products & Services

Iridium Introduces First IoT Service: Short Burst Data®

Iridium introduced its first IoT service: Short Burst Data (SBD®). SBD was a simple, efficient satellite network transport capability to transport short data messages between field equipment and a centralized host computing system.

07 31 2004 Company Milestone

Iridium Surpasses 100,000 Subscribers and Achieves Positive EBITDA

In 2004, Iridium made its first profit – $3.3M of earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) on $121.5M in total revenues. By the end of the year, Iridium surpassed 100,000 subscribers, 88,000 commercial and 27,000 U.S. government customers.

09 02 2005 Business Update

Iridium Provides Critical Communications Following Katrina

Iridium was one of the only communications system available to first responders in the weeks following Hurricane Katrina, bringing a 3,000 percent increase to Iridium usage in the region. This increase brought significant attention to Iridium and the value of satellite communications during and after natural disasters, something Iridium has continued to focus on through its Corporate Social Responsibility efforts.

02 15 2006 Business Update

Satellite Network Lifespan Projection for Satellites is Expanded

With 66 operational satellites and 11 of the 15 spares still in operation at the constellation’s peak, Iridium determined that the original satellite network could last until at least 2014. Radiation studies of the satellites showed that they were much more resilient than expected at the time of launch. The operations team, managed by Boeing, was successful at extending the life of satellites through the Iridium NEXT campaign, which launched 75 new satellites between 2017 – 2019, replacing the original constellation.

09 21 2006 Business Update

Matt Desch Joins Iridium as Chief Executive Officer

After cycling though five CEOs in five years, Iridium welcomed Matt Desch, who proceeded to lead Iridium through its Initial Public Offering, the Iridium NEXT constellation replacement campaign, and the launch of Iridium Certus®. By the end of 2006, Desch helped grow Iridium to 158,000 subscribers, and had generated $53.8M in OEBITDA on $212.4M in revenues and about $35M in cash.

01 01 2007 Industry

Iridium Donates 70 Phones and Services to the ITU

As a long-standing member of the United Nations’ International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Iridium began assisting with emergency telecommunication in 2007 with donated satellite phones, solar batteries, and unlimited airtime. After disasters strike, the ITU assists and coordinates with other U.N. agencies to provide telecommunications to disaster relief teams. Iridium’s donated phones were used in some of the largests disasters in history, including Tropical Cyclone Aila (2009); Haitian Earthquake (2010); Japanese Earthquake and Hurricane Sandy (2012); Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria (2017); and Cyclone Idai (2019).

02 19 2007 Company Milestone

Iridium Announces Plans for the Iridium NEXT Program

Iridium started engineering studies and an industry request for information for its planned network replacement program, Iridium NEXT. The company expected the upgrade to be completed by 2016 at a cost of about $2.7B. Ultimately, the campaign ended in 2019 at a cost of approximately $3B.

09 23 2008 Company Milestone

Iridium Announces Plans to Merge with GHL Acquisition Corp.

After evaluating options for over a year, Iridium announced it would merge with a special purpose acquisition corporation created by the investment bank Greenhill & Co. One year later, Iridium began trading on the Nasdaq as IRDM.

02 10 2009 Industry

Defunct Russian Satellite Collides with Active Iridium 33

An inactive Russian satellite, Kosmos 2251 collided with Iridium 33 about 800 km over Siberia. Following the collision, Iridium took many initiatives to improve satellite deorbit procedures and helped develop programs to better track uncontrolled objects in space to prevent further collisions.

09 29 2009 Company Milestone

Iridium is Acquired and Becomes a Publicly-Traded Company

GHL Acquisition Corp., a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, was formed in November 2007 and went public in February 2008. GHL Acquisition Corp. acquired all of the equity in Iridium Holdings on September 29, 2009 and changed its name to Iridium Communications Inc., listed on The Nasdaq Stock Market under the symbol IRDM.

2010s

The Next Generation

06 02 2010 Satellites

Iridium Selects Thales Alenia to Build Next-Generation Satellites

After a two-year competition between Thales Alenia Space and Lockheed Martin, Iridium selected Thales Alenia to design and manufacture 81 next-generation satellites for the Iridium NEXT campaign in a contract ultimately totaling $2.3B.

06 16 2010 Satellites

Iridium and SpaceX Sign Launch Contract for Iridium NEXT

Iridium and Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) signed a $492M contract, making SpaceX a major launch provider for the Iridium NEXT launch campaign, and making Iridium SpaceX’s largest commercial customer. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launch vehicle carried multiple second-generation Iridium satellites per vehicle, inserting the satellites into a Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) as Iridium replaced its first-generation satellite constellation.

03 15 2011 Awards & Recognition

Iridium Wins the MSUA’s Innovation Award for the Iridium 9602

Iridium won the Mobile Satellite Users Association’s Innovation Award for the Iridium 9602 which supported Iridium SBD.

03 30 2011 Industry

Iridium Joins with Six Firms to Found the Hosted Payload Alliance

Iridium joined with six other satellite makers and operators to create the Hosted Payload Alliance which promoted the practice of hosting government payloads aboard commercial satellites. The other initial members of the HPA, also part of the steering committee, were Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems; Intelsat General Corp.; Lockheed Martin Space Systems; Orbital Sciences Corp.; SES World Skies U.S. Government Solutions; and Space Systems/Loral. Don Thoma, who went on to become the CEO of Iridium’s joint-venture Aireon, helped form the HPA and became its Chairman.

04 11 2011 Awards & Recognition

Iridium Wins ‘North American Telecom Deal of the Year’

Iridium won the North American Telecom Deal of the Year for 2010. The award was based on the $1.8 billion deal with Coface to finance Iridium NEXT. Project Finance credited Iridium with bringing the “largest and most complex of a series of export financings for satellite projects to market.”

06 27 2011 Industry

FAA Approves Iridium for Future Air Navigation System

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration approved Iridium for Future Air Navigation System (FANS) data links enabling satellite data links with air-traffic control (ATC) for aircraft flying in the FANS environment, including polar routes.

09 12 2011 Company Milestone

Iridium Reaches 500,000 Global Subscribers 10 Years After Launch

With 90 percent commercial and 10 percent U.S. government customers, Iridium reached half a million subscribers just 10 years after relaunching commercial service. Between 2006 – 2011, Iridium experienced more than 25 percent growth every year. Iridium CEO Matt Desch attributed the company’s dramatic growth rates to Iridium’s solutions for the emerging Machine-to-Machine / Internet of Things (IoT) data market.

11 22 2011 Products & Services

First Iridium Apple iOS App Becomes Available for Users

The Iridium AxcessPoint Mail & Web App launched for iOS devices, allowing users to connect from anywhere in the world.

12 06 2011 Products & Services

Iridium Extreme Becomes First Satellite Phone to Offer SOS Service

Iridium introduced the first satellite phone with an integrated SOS emergency button and service: Iridium Extreme®. By pressing the globally-connected SOS button, individuals could be connected to a live representative in case of an emergency.

01 18 2012 Awards & Recognition

Iridium Extreme Wins Pittman Innovation Award from Sail Magazine

Iridium Extreme won a 2012 Pittman Innovation Award from SAIL Magazine for its durability and functionality for sailors.

05 14 2012 Business Update

Iridium Receives Authorization to Operate Commercially in Russia

Iridium received authorization for the commercial operation of products and services in Russia. This came with many increased opportunities due to the vast and remote areas within Russia and the lack of traditional communications networks in the region.

06 19 2012 Industry

Iridium and NAV CANADA Announce Joint Venture Aireon

Iridium secured one of the industry’s largest deals to date for the primary hosted payload space on Iridium NEXT with Aireon. The partnership with leading ANSPs and investors from around the world provides real time surveillance of all equipped aircrafts, on a global scale.

06 19 2012 Satellites

Iridium Announces Aireon Hosted Payloads for Iridium NEXT

Iridium secured one of the industry’s largest deals to date for the primary hosted payload space on Iridium NEXT with Aireon℠. The partnership with leading Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs) and investors from around the world is set to provide real time surveillance of all equipped aircrafts, on a global scale

10 17 2012 Awards & Recognition

ITU Recognizes Iridium for Leadership in Emergency Communications

Iridium received the United Nations’ ITU Humanitarian Award for leadership in telecommunications during and after emergencies to help coordinate rescue efforts and save lives. The ITU recognized Iridium’s support for emergency communications and relief during and after disasters, as well as the company’s efforts to educate and prepare responders with reliable communications systems.

10 22 2013 Business Update

U.S. Department of Defense Awards Iridium Five-Year Contract

The Defense Information Systems Agency awarded Iridium a $400M fixed-price contract to provide unlimited satellite airtime to an unlimited number of DoD and federal subscribers for five years. This contract renewed the provision for delivering Enhanced Mobile Satellite Services (EMSS) airtime, including global secure and unsecure voice, low and high-speed data, paging, and Distributed Tactical Communications System (DTCS) services.

03 27 2014 Satellites

Satellite Production Begins for Iridium NEXT Launch Campaign

Orbital Sciences (now part of Northrup Grumman) and Iridium hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Iridium NEXT production line in Gilbert, Arizona. This ceremony kicked off production of the 81 satellites assembled by Orbital, under contract with Thales Alenia Space, for the Iridium NEXT program.

07 03 2014 Products & Services

SpaceX Announces Successful Launch Mission Critical Review

The Iridium and SpaceX teams announced the successful completion of the launch mission critical review in advance of the first Iridium NEXT launch.

07 08 2014 Satellites

The First Successful Call is Made Over Iridium NEXT Hardware

The first successful end-to-end test call using Iridium NEXT hardware was completed on an Iridium satellite phone, simulating the connection to a satellite. This provided initial validation of the L-band hardware and processing software to be used in the new constellation.

07 28 2014 Products & Services

Iridium Launches the First Truly Global Satellite Hotspot

Iridium GO!® allows smartphones and tablets to connect to satellite-based Wi-Fi, dramatically extending the voice and data coverage of these devices. This was introduced at lowest cost voice device and service from Iridium, making global connectivity more affordable than ever.

02 26 2015 Products & Services

The First Three Iridium Certus VAMs are Announced

Iridium announces the first three Iridium Certus® Value-Added Manufacturers (VAMs): Cobham, Rockwell Collins, and L3 Communications. These companies were selected in a competitive process that included over 30 candidates to collaborate with Iridium to produce the first Iridium Certus broadband terminals.

03 11 2015 Products & Services

Thales Joins Iridium Certus Vam Program as Fourth Approved Partner

Shortly after the Iridium Certus VAM program launched, Iridium announced Thales joining as the fourth approved partner.

06 29 2015 Products & Services

Iridium Launches Global Satellite-Based Push-To-Talk Service

Iridium Push-To-Talk (PTT) was the first global, satellite-based PTT service, enabling instant group communications to and from anywhere in the world.

10 13 2015 Awards & Recognition

Iridium is Recognized for M2M / IoT Industry Leadership

Iridium was recognized as a leader in Machine-to-Machine (M2M) services with a spot on the 2016 Connected World 100 list. Issued by Connected World Magazine, the annual list is a compilation of the top 100 technology providers in M2M and connected devices.

03 08 2016 Awards & Recognition

Iridium Recognized by MSUA for Satellite-Based PTT Services

Iridium wins MSUA’s Top Emergency Response Innovation Award for the first global, satellite-based push-to-talk service, a key communications line for many first responders around the world.

01 14 2017 Satellites

The First Iridium NEXT Launch is Successfully Completed

The Iridium NEXT launch campaign began as the first 10 second-generation satellites were delivered into Low-Earth Orbit approximately one hour after a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The launch campaign went on to become the largest technology refresh in space history, and completely replaced the first-generation Iridium network, launched between 1997-2002, without disrupting service.

02 19 2017 Satellites

First Next-Generation Satellite is Activated 1 Month After Launch

About a month after the first Iridium NEXT launch, the first new satellite, SV106, was activated at 18:25 UTC in the Iridium constellation, filling Slot 7 in Plane 6 without disrupting service for end users.

03 06 2017 Products & Services

Iridium Air Traffic Safety Service Reaches 500 Aircraft

Iridium’s Air Traffic Service Safety Voice was adopted by over 500 aircraft. Following the service’s approval by the FAA and subsequent launch in 2015, Iridium saw substantial and continual growth, with a more than 100 percent increase in active airframes using Safety Voice between 2015 and 2017.

04 11 2017 Satellites

SV40 Becomes First Original Satellite to be Deboosted

As a part of its commitment to space sustainability, Iridium committed to responsibly deorbiting the first-generation satellites from orbit as they were retired. Each satellite vehicle (SV) was put on a carefully constructed deboosting plan. SV40 became the first original satellite to be deboosted. Iridium engineers, many of whom had been with the company since the early Motorola days, celebrated and honored the original satellites as they were retired.

06 25 2017 Satellites

Iridium NEXT Launch 2

Launch Vehicle: SpaceX Falcon 9, Launch Site: Vandenberg Air Force Base

10 09 2017 Satellites

Iridium NEXT Launch 3

Launch Vehicle: SpaceX Falcon 9, Launch Site: Vandenberg Air Force Base

12 22 2017 Satellites

Iridium-4 Launch Goes Viral with UFO Conspiracies

Iridium-4 sparked a Tweetstorm among observers who believed the SpaceX rocket was a UFO. Even SpaceX’s CEO joined in with a Tweet of his own! The rocket lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base carrying 10 satellites into Low-Earth Orbit just after sunset, leaving a glowing plume in its wake. This was also the day that Iridium became the first company in history to reuse one of its own flight-proven SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets from a previous launch.

03 30 2018 Company Milestone

Iridium Surpasses 1,000,000 Active Network Subscribers

Continuing its trend of significant growth, Iridium surpassed 1 million active network subscribers. This milestone served as a testament to the reliable, resilient, and uncompromising nature of the Iridium network. The Internet of Things (IoT) market paved the way for Iridium’s growth, where Iridium established itself as the satellite network of choice to keep ‘things’ connected beyond the limits of cellular coverage. At the time of this milestone, more than half of the subscribers on the Iridium network were IoT devices, delivering a wide variety of solutions by hundreds of value-added technology partners. These devices were designed to do everything from tracking endangered species and monitoring power lines to controlling shipping container temperature levels or serving as tsunami warning systems.

03 30 2018 Satellites

Iridium NEXT Launch 5

Launch Vehicle: SpaceX Falcon 9, Launch Site: Vandenberg Air Force Base

04 24 2018 Products & Services

Gogo Announced as First Partner to Be a VAM and SP for Iridium Certus

Iridium announced Gogo as the first Iridium Certus VAM also approved as an Iridium Certus Service Provider.

05 21 2018 Industry

Iridium is Recognized by the IMO to Provide GMDSS Services

Iridium made maritime history and broke a 20-year monopoly on satellite GMDSS services when the International Maritime Organization’s Maritime Safety Committee recognized the company to provide satellite services for the Global Maritime Distress Safety System (GMDSS).

05 22 2018 Satellites

Iridium and NASA Launch Satellites in a Unique Rideshare Mission

For the sixth Iridium NEXT launch, Iridium joined NASA for a unique rideshare mission on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Iridium launched five second-generation satellites, while NASA deployed two Earth-observing satellites. The Iridium-6/GRACE-FO Mission first deployed the twin Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On (GRACE-FO) satellites, followed by the new Iridium satellites, which joined the 50 already in Low-Earth Orbit.

07 25 2018 Satellites

Iridium NEXT Launch 7

Launch Vehicle: SpaceX Falcon 9, Launch Site: Vandenberg Air Force Base

09 11 2018 Products & Services

Satcom Direct Joins the Iridium Certus VAM Program

Focused on aviation, Satcom Direct was the last company to become an Iridium Certus VAM prior to service launch.

09 25 2018 Industry

The Ocean Cleanup Chooses Iridium for Environmental Initiative

The Ocean Cleanup chose Iridium to provide a communication system made up of Iridium broadband terminals and a complex combination of sensors that remotely provided real-time data for the project. The Ocean Cleanup works to remove plastic and other garbage from the Pacific ocean using 600 meters of floating screens and plastic collectors. This data is essential for the initiative, which still is one of the largest environmental initiatives of its generation.

09 27 2018 Products & Services

Iridium Announces Iridium Cloudconnect in Partnership With Amazon Web Services

Iridium announced a collaboration with AWS on the development of Iridium CloudConnect, the first and only cloud-based solution with global coverage for IoT applications. Iridium CloudConnect would create an easier way for companies to integrate IoT technology with the Iridium network through AWS.

10 16 2018 Products & Services

Iridium Air Traffic Safety Service Surpasses 1,000 Aircraft

Between 2017 and 2018, the number of active airframes using Iridium Air Traffic Service Safety Voice grew to over 1,000. The service provided aircraft operators with an alternative to existing radio systems, replacing them with a secure satellite network capable of long-range communications.

12 03 2018 Awards & Recognition

Iridium is Named ‘Company of the Year’ by SpaceNews

After a major year of innovation and excellence, Iridium was heralded as the 2018 SpaceNews Company of the Year. SpaceNews highlighted Iridium’s progress in upgrading its satellite constellation and responsibly deorbiting first-generation satellites, as well as the company’s strong financial performance and advancements in the industry, including IMO recognition for GMDSS and the launch of Aireon’s real-time aircraft tracking.

01 11 2019 Satellites

After the Final Launch, Iridium NEXT Campaign Concludes

The eighth and final launch in the Iridium NEXT campaign brought the last 10 second-generation satellites into Low-Earth Orbit. These satellites were launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The Iridium NEXT launch program sent a total of 75 second-generation satellites into orbit, 66 of which made up the active constellation.

01 16 2019 Products & Services

Iridium Commercially Launches Iridium Certus Platform

After years of development and testing, Iridium commercially launched Iridium Certus with six Value-Added Manufacturers and 35 Service Providers. The launch of Iridium Certus came on the heels of the final launch in Iridium’s historic Iridium NEXT campaign, which transformed and upgraded the entire network and constellation with 75 new satellites.

02 01 2019 Business Update

Iridium Welcomes its First Female Chief Operations Officer

Iridium welcomed Suzi McBride as its first female Chief Operations Officer. McBride joined the team to lead operations of the Iridium network, including the satellite constellation and associated ground gateways and terminals. McBride previously worked at Iridium for over nine years as Vice President of Program Management and Launch Services, playing a key leadership role in the Iridium NEXT program, leading the launch strategy, engineering, and hosted payload programs. McBride came into the COO role with more than 25 years of experience, including helping to build and launch the original Iridium satellite constellation while at Motorola’s Satellite Communications Group as a senior engineer in the 1990s.

02 05 2019 Company Milestone

Iridium Successfully Completes its Constellation Upgrade

The completion of the Iridium NEXT campaign came as the final two second-generation satellites were activated on February 5, 2019 at 19:15 UTC. The activation of these satellites marked the end of the largest technological refresh in space history.

03 14 2019 Awards & Recognition

Iridium Wins ‘Best Space Platform’ for Iridium NEXT Campaign

Iridium was awarded a 2019 Aviation Week Laureate for ‘Best Space Platform’ in recognition of the Iridium NEXT campaign.

03 28 2019 Company Milestone

First Iridium Ground Station Opens in the Southern Hemisphere

Located in Punta Arenas, Chile, Iridium’s first ground station in the southern hemisphere launched commercial services. The addition of this station to Iridium’s ground infrastructure allowed communications to travel more efficiently and enhanced Iridium’s ability to handle network traffic.

04 16 2019 Products & Services

Iridium Signs PSA in Preparation for GMDSS Service Launch

Iridium signed a Public Services Agreement (PSA) with the International Mobile Satellite Organization (IMSO) to prepare for Iridium GMDSS service launch. The PSA detailed the conditions for the International Mobile Satellite Organization to regulate and oversee Iridium’s GMDSS services. Its signing was a key step towards IMSO issuing a Letter of Compliance stating that Iridium was ready to begin providing its GMDSS service.

05 07 2019 Awards & Recognition

Iridium Certus Wins MSUA ‘Top Connected Platform Solution’

Less than four months after its commercial service launch, Iridium Certus was awarded the Mobile Satellite Users Association’s “Top Connected Platform Solution” for 2019 during the Satellite Mobility Innovation Awards.

05 08 2019 Awards & Recognition

Iridium CEO Wins Executive of the Year for the Second Time

Iridium CEO Matt Desch became the first 2x winner of Via Satellite’s Executive of the Year, winning for 2012 and 2018.

06 04 2019 Products & Services

Iridium’s First GMDSS Terminal Unveiled

Following years of ongoing efforts to bring truly global GMDSS services to mariners everywhere, Iridium and partner Lars Thrane announced the LT-3100S as the first Iridium GMDSS terminal. It would provide an all-in-one system that met Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) convention vessel carriage requirements, while also serving as a primary or companion communications system. Unlike the competitive alternative, the LT-3100S would offer GMDSS services, along with voice, texting, data, and other safety services.

06 17 2019 Products & Services

Iridium Partner Introduces the First Global Satellite PTT Radio

Iridium partner Icom announced the first dedicated satellite push-to-talk radio, the Icom IC-SAT100, which became the only Iridium PTT capabale Land-Mobile Radio offering real-time communications between groups and individuals anywhere on the plane.

08 21 2019 Products & Services

Iridium Introduces a Midband Service Class on the Iridium Certus Platform

After celebrating the launch of Iridium Certus broadband services just eight months earlier, Iridium announced the Iridium Certus 9770 transceiver. With L-band speeds ranging from 22 to 88 Kbps, this new transceiver was the company’s first step in introducing a new service class known as Midband. This transceiver was smaller, lighter, and required less power than the previous Iridium Certus transceiver, allowing Iridium satellite services to serve new markets, ranging from unmanned and autonomous drones, to personal communicators, to remotely-deployed IoT devices.

09 16 2019 Business Update

U.S. Department of Defense Awards Iridium an Unprecedented 7-Year Unlimited Service Contract

Iridium’s oldest and largest customer, the U.S. government, awarded the company a seven-year, fixed price contract to provide unlimited narrowband services to unlimited subscribers for $738.5 million. The unprecedented length of the contract served as a testament to the ongoing value Iridium provided to the government.

10 21 2019 Products & Services

Intellian Joins the Iridium Certus Maritime Portfolio

After several successful Iridium Certus product launches with industry-leading partners, Iridium welcomed Intellian to its ecosystem of value-added manufacturers of Iridium Certus broadband terminals, announcing its plans to introduce the C700 for L-band maritime satellite communications.

11 04 2019 Business Update

Iridium Announces Closing of $1.45 Billion Refinancing

Less than a year after the completion of the Iridium NEXT constellation replacement program, Iridium announced the closing of a $1.45 billion, seven-year term loan, setting the stage for the company to complete its financial transformation. The credit agreement formally retired Iridium’s previous credit facility initiated in 2010 and guaranteed by BPI France (formerly Coface), which had enabled Iridium to finance Iridium NEXT. An additional $100 million, five-year revolving loan facility was also included in the new agreement.

2020s

A NEW
ERA

01 13 2020 Products & Services

Iridium is Formally Authorized to Provide GMDSS Service

As Iridium neared the final stages of preparing its GMDSS services for launch, it received a formal Letter of Compliance by the International Mobile Satellite Organization (IMSO) stating that the company had positively verified the operational and technical requirements of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) for GMDSS.

01 28 2020 Products & Services

Iridium CloudConnect Launched, Extending Amazon Web Services Globally

As Iridium’s IoT business continued to grow, the company introduced Iridium CloudConnect for Amazon Web Services (AWS). The service made it easier to do business by translating between industry-standard cloud protocols and Iridium’s Short Burst Data service. This allowed virtually any IoT device connected through the Iridium network to speak natively with AWS IoT services as well as other value-added elements available in AWS Marketplace.

02 27 2020 Products & Services

Iridium Certus® 700 Service Class Launched, Bringing the Fastest L-Band Speeds to the Industry

When it first launched in early 2019, Iridium Certus provided L-band upload and download speeds of up to 352 Kbps. One year later, Iridium announced the introduction of the Iridium Certus 700 service class, bringing top download speeds up to 704 Kbps, which was more than 270 Kbps faster than the top download speed of the closest competitive L-band solution at the time.

06 24 2020 Satellites

Iridium Signs Launch Contract with Relativity Space

Iridium signed a launch contract with Relativity Space for as-needed deployment of individual ground spare satellites from the Iridium NEXT mission.

The Future

What's Next?

Endless Possibilities

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