The fourth batch of Iridium® NEXT satellites, built by Thales Alenia Space, has been successfully launched by Space X from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. This launch marks a significant new phase in the Iridium NEXT program.
The Iridium NEXT constellation will offer global connectivity thanks to 66 crosslinked 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, ships), and ensures full global coverage, including over the oceans and the poles. Thanks to its global coverage and independent operation, not requiring any local ground infrastructure, Iridium’s network provides vital assistance under very challenging conditions, such as in remote areas, during natural disasters or conflicts, etc. Its independence from local ground infrastructure enables secure and reliable communications when needed most.
Thales Alenia Space is the system prime contractor for the program, in charge of engineering, integration, operations and in-orbit and overall system validation for the 81 satellites being built, 75 of which are currently planned for orbit., The satellites are integrated 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 Satellite Network Operations Center (SNOC) in Leesburg, Va. The success of this fourth launch further consolidates the company’s reputation as prime contractor for sophisticated satcom systems.
“More than half of our new Iridium NEXT satellites are now in orbit. Performances are exceeding expectations. We have started integration of the 64th satellite and the next satellites to be launched are already available in anticipation of the 5th and 6th launches. 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.