Satellite communications provider Iridium Communications (Booth C6924) has started on-orbit testing of its coming Certus service, ushering in a new era of L-band broadband connectivity, the company declared. Based on new-generation Iridium Next satellites, the service promises increased competition against Inmarsat’s SwiftBroadband offering.
SpaceX successfully placed a third batch of 10 Iridium Next satellites into low-earth orbit on October 9, launching them on a Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. Thirteen Iridium Next satellites have entered service as a result of two previous launches in January and June. With the third launch, there will be 23 operational satellites of 66 planned, with another nine satellites serving as in-orbit spares.
Among new capabilities, Iridium Next satellites will host the Certus platform and Aireon’s space-based ADS-B payloads for aircraft surveillance and tracking applications.
Iridium started testing and validating Certus in late September by uploading and activating software on the Iridium Next satellites already in orbit; as of October 4 several satellites were undergoing live on-orbit Certus testing, the company said.
Current on-orbit testing is focused on Certus 350 the initial service class to be introduced, providing 352 Kbps data speed to support applications such as flight data recorder streaming. Once all service classes are available, Certus will be capable of speeds up to 1.4 Mbps. With a firmware update planned in 2019, Certus 700 will be capable of 704 Kbps, making it competitive with SwiftBroadband’s 432 Kbps per channel speed.
“Anywhere where a SwiftBroadband system is targeted today, Certus is a viable option to consider in its place,” said Bryan Hartin, Iridium executive v-p of sales and marketing.
Iridium has designated Cobham, L3 Communications, Rockwell Collins and Thales USA as “valued added manufacturers” to build Certus terminals and antennas.