Space Commerce

Iridium and Rutgers University Partner for Challenger Glider Mission

By Marc Boucher
Press Release
March 10, 2014
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Iridium Communications Inc. (Nasdaq:IRDM) and Rutgers University’s Coastal Ocean Observation Lab (RU COOL) today announced Iridium will be a key technology sponsor to the Challenger Glider Mission.
The project, a symbolic re-creation of the first global scientific ocean survey conducted by the HMS Challenger in 1872, is led by Rutgers’ students and faculty. The mission plans to “fly” 16 autonomous underwater gliders worldwide, covering all five ocean basins, collecting an unprecedented undersea dataset to better equip researchers with the tools to predict the ocean’s future and its impact on global weather.

“The health of our oceans is truly an indicator of the health of our planet, and the Challenger Glider Mission will provide the kind of high-resolution data desperately needed by researchers to evaluate and assess the current ocean state,” stated David Wigglesworth, Vice President & General Manager, Americas and Global M2M Services, Iridium. “We’re thrilled to be associated with the project, and excited to provide connectivity via the Iridium® satellite network for this endeavor. Our products and services uniquely provide reliable and global coverage, with a small form factor, which are all obvious necessities for the success of this mission.”

The Challenger Glider Mission will be conducted from 2014 to 2016 through coordinated flights of the core glider fleet plus volunteered gliders from other academic and government institutions. Each glider will fly a 6,000 to 8,000 kilometer leg following the ocean gyre circulation around the five major ocean basins. The global-class gliders used in the mission – the Teledyne Webb-Slocum glider – is a 2.2 meter autonomous underwater vehicle that collects data as it moves through the ocean in a saw-tooth shaped gliding trajectory, achieving a forward speed of 25 to 35 kilometers per day. The primary vehicle navigation system uses an onboard GPS receiver coupled with an attitude sensor, depth sensor, and altimeter to provide dead-reckoned navigation. Iridium, through its global satellite circuit switched data service, provides primary two-way communications.

“We’re pleased to be working with the Challenger Glider Mission and Iridium on what is an extraordinary project,” said Bill Woodward, President and CEO, CLS America, Iridium’s partner that provides the technical and administrative communications interface between the gliders and the Iridium system. “The Teledyne Webb-Slocum glider, paired with the the Iridium satellite network, is a fantastic solution for this kind of research. The results of this mission will be invaluable to the research community, which in turn will have a profound effect globally on many industries. For one example, a better understanding of the changing oceans will benefit the maritime industry, as it could lead to improved weather and ocean condition forecasting.”

Each glider will capture continuous readings of ocean temperature, salinity and currents. This data will be transmitted to researchers via the Iridium satellite network when the glider surfaces. Iridium’s network is uniquely suited to these kinds of applications, given its low latency, superior availability and reliability. Furthermore, Iridium’s near-polar orbit means it is the only satellite network to provide truly global coverage, an essential for projects that span the globe, such as the Challenger Glider Mission. Additionally this is a great demonstration of the low power consumption of Iridium transceiver technology and its robustness in what can be an extreme environment.

“The technology underpinnings of this mission are truly enabling our researchers to gather more and better data than ever before, enhancing the basis of knowledge for future generations,” said Scott Glenn, Co-leader of the Challgenger Glider Mission and Professor of Physical Oceanography at Rutgers University. “Part of our goal with this mission is to increase global ocean literacy. This expanded dataset will enable students and researchers to focus on the science of their local waters, as well as be a part of a global research community, all working toward understanding the ocean’s role in regulating the changing climate and weather.”

For more information on Iridium and the Iridium satellite network, go to

More information on the Challenger Glider Mission can be found at

About Iridium Communications Inc.

Iridium is the only mobile voice and data satellite communications network that spans the entire globe. Iridium enables connections between people, organizations and assets to and from anywhere, in real time. Together with its ecosystem of partner companies, Iridium delivers an innovative and rich portfolio of reliable solutions for markets that require truly global communications. The company has a major development program underway for its next-generation network — Iridium NEXT. Iridium Communications Inc. is headquartered in McLean, Va., U.S.A., and its common stock trades on the NASDAQ Global Select Market under the ticker symbol IRDM. For more information about Iridium products, services and partner solutions, visit


Rutgers University’s Coastal Ocean Observation Lab is a world leader in developing innovative partnerships to explore the world’s coastal oceans, improving the basic understanding of coupled physical and biological processes, and serving the public good through observatory based monitoring and education programs. Professors Scott Glenn, Oscar Schofield and Josh Kohut co-direct RU COOL. For more information about RU COOL, visit

CONTACT: Press Contact:
Diane Hockenberry
Iridium Communications Inc.
+1 (703) 287-7421

Ken Branson
Media Relations
Rutgers University
+1 (848) 932-0580

SpaceRef co-founder, entrepreneur, writer, podcaster, nature lover and deep thinker.