“55 Iridium® NEXT satellites are now in orbit and performance is exceeding expectations. The next two sets of 10 Iridium® NEXT satellites are nearing completion and will be soon awaiting the 7th and 8th launches. I can confirm that everything is on track to meet our objective, namely to launch all 75 Iridium® NEXT low earth orbit satellites in 2018,” declared Denis Allard, Iridium® NEXT Vice President for Thales Alenia Space.
Thales Alenia Space, the system prime contractor for the Iridium® NEXT program, is in charge of engineering, integration, and in-orbit validation of all 81 Iridium NEXT satellites. The satellites are manufactured in a production line process by Thales Alenia Space’s subcontractor Orbital ATK, at its Satellite Manufacturing Facility in Gilbert, Ariz. under the supervision of a dedicated local Thales Alenia Space and Iridium team. Launch and Early Operations (LEOP) and In Orbit Tests are performed by Thales Alenia Space in coordination with Iridium, from Iridium’s Satellite Network Operation Center (SNOC) in Leesburg, Va.
The Iridium® NEXT constellation will offer global connectivity thanks to 66 interconnected satellites at an altitude of 780 km, along with nine spares in parking orbits and six more spare satellites on the ground. This global network provides unrivaled capabilities for communications on the move (individuals, land vehicles, aircraft and ships), and ensures fully global coverage, including the poles and over the ocean.
Thanks to its global coverage and independent operation, not requiring any ground infrastructure, Iridium® NEXT provides vital assistance under very challenging conditions, such as in isolated areas, during natural disasters or during conflicts, to name a few. Its independence from local ground infrastructures delivers secure communications, including protection against intrusion and hacking.
Artistic view: © Thales Alenia Space/Master Image Programmes
Photo: © SpaceX