[SatNews] News of a big step forward...Thales Alenia Space announced today that its contract with Iridium Communication (Nasdaq: IRDM), providing for the construction of 81 communication satellites in the Iridium NEXT low-orbit constellation, is now in full effect. With the closing of Iridium’s Coface credit facility, the FSD (Full Scale System Development) contract between Iridium and Thales Alenia Space replaces the Authorization to Proceed (ATP), signed by the companies on June 1, 2010. As of June, Thales Alenia Space has, in fact, had full-scale system design and development underway through its work under the ATP.
Iridium is a major provider of mobile satellite voice and data communications services. Iridium NEXT will replace Iridium’s current constellation, ensuring continuity of the world’s only truly global mobile satellite service. Iridium NEXT also will expand the capacity and capabilities of the company’s existing global service. The launch of the first satellites is scheduled for the first quarter of 2015.
Thales Alenia Space is the Iridium NEXT prime contractor, responsible for managing engineering development, systems integration and manufacture of a space segment comprising 66 operational satellites, 6 in-orbit spare satellites and 9 ground spare satellites. To perform this large scale contract, Thales Alenia Space has established strategic industrial partnerships and plans to subcontract roughly 40 percent of the work to companies in North America. Thales Alenia Space France, Italy and Belgium will be heavily involved in the project, with activities shared between operations in Cannes, Toulouse, Rome and Charleroi.
Iridium NEXT will offer complete backward compatibility with Iridium’s current devices and services. Thales Alenia Space developed a sophisticated, yet flexible solution to meet this requirement. Based on its LEO platform product line, specifically developed for constellations, each Iridium NEXT satellite will carry a sophisticated active transmit/receive L-band antenna, Ka-band crosslink and feeder link antennas, 2-axis solar arrays and advanced onboard processing hardware and software needed to manage and route voice and data traffic through the Iridium network.
“This is a very important milestone, not only for our customer Iridium and for our company, but for all the financial institutions that have worked so hard on this project,” said Reynald Seznec, President and CEO of Thales Alenia Space. “The contract clearly shows that our company is a pivotal player in today’s market for communication satellite constellations. We have been able to combine our technical expertise with a unique industrial organization that allows us to set up a production chain, demonstrate our long experience in the management of industrial consortiums, and prove our ability to help customers carry out the procedures needed for financial arrangements.”
“We are extremely pleased to have closed the Coface financing and to have moved onto the FSD as we aggressively push forward to deliver Iridium NEXT,” said Matt Desch, CEO of Iridium. “Today marks another important milestone since our June 1st decision to choose Thales Alenia Space as our prime contractor. The Thales Alenia Space team is now fully engaged in designing Iridium NEXT and we feel great about the partnership that is developing between our two companies as work accelerates on this exciting venture.“