CANNES, France --- The third batch of Iridium NEXT satellites built by Thales Alenia Space has been successfully launched by SpaceX from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. After the perfect commissioning of the first 20 satellites launched in January and June, thirteen of which are now interconnected and operating in full compatibility with the initial Block One Constellation, with seven being maneuvered to an adjacent plane, this new milestone allows to continue the fantastic Iridium NEXT adventure.
Thales Alenia Space is prime contractor for the Iridium NEXT program, in charge of engineering, integration, operations and in-orbit validation of the 81 satellites and the overall system. The first 20 satellites showed that Iridium NEXT is perfectly compatible with the existing system.
The satellites are integrated in series by Thales Alenia Space’s subcontractor Orbital ATK, at its Satellite Manufacturing Facility in Arizona under the supervision of a dedicated local Thales Alenia Space team. Launch and Early Operations (LEOP) and In Orbit Tests are performed by Thales Alenia Space from the Iridium Control Center at Leesburg (Va).
“I am very pleased to see that the overall performances provided by the first 20 satellites are exceeding Iridium’s expectations. This is a significant reward for all the teams who have worked hard for years on this program. In addition to being a real feat of technological prowess, Iridium NEXT, by integrating with the Iridium Block 1 constellation to provide global coverage without requiring local ground infrastructure, has recently proved its efficiency under the tragic circumstances in Puerto Rico, where 88 percent of the island’s cell phone network fell down due to the hurricane,” declared Denis Allard, Iridium NEXT Vice President for Thales Alenia Space.
He added: “In addition to this third launch, the production of 23 additional satellites has now been completed. We have also started integration of the 64th satellite. Everything is on track to meet our objective, namely to launch all 75 Iridium NEXT orbital satellites by mid-2018”.
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 international system provides unrivaled capability for communications on the move (individuals, land vehicles, aircraft, ships), and ensures full global coverage, including the oceans.
A joint venture between Thales (67%) and Leonardo (33%), Thales Alenia Space also teams up with Telespazio to form the parent companies’ Space Alliance, which offers a complete range of services and solutions. Thales Alenia Space posted consolidated revenues of about 2.4 billion euros in 2016 and has 7,980 employees in nine countries.