Iridium picks Falcon 9 to launch next-generation satellites

The successful launch of the Falcon 9 rocket two weeks ago obviously impressed the punters – Iridium has signed a deal with the Falcon’s creator, SpaceX, to use it to launch a fleet of commercial satellites.

The Falcon 9 will launch Iridium NEXT, Iridium’s next-generation satellite constellation, inserting them into a low-earth orbit. They’re set to launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB) in California between 2015 and 2017.

The $492 million contract is the largest single commercial launch deal ever signed. The companies won’t say precisely how many launches there’ll be, but we can expect UFO sightings to rise considerably.

“We are proud to be partnered with SpaceX, and want to congratulate Elon Musk and the entire SpaceX team on its successful inaugural Falcon 9 launch,” said Matt Desch, CEO of Iridium.

“Hands down, SpaceX offered us the best value coupled with an unwavering commitment to flawless performance and reliability. SpaceX has combined the best of aerospace and commercial best practices to design reliable and cost-effective access to space, and Iridium will be the beneficiary of that effort.”

The June 4 inaugural launch of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 awas a complete success, says the company, achieving 100 percent of its mission objectives.

The spacecraft is a medium-to-heavy lift, two-stage launch vehicle capable of lifting approximately 11 tons to LEO. It’s also been chosen by NASA, along with the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft, to resupply the International Space Station starting in 2011.