28 March 2014
Orbital Sciences Corp. (NYSE: ORB) said it has started production of 81 satellites for the Iridium (NASDAQ: IRDM) NEXT program as part of a contract between Orbital and Iridium´s prime contractor, French-Italian aerospace company Thales Alenia Space.
Orbital will complete the assembly, integration, test and launch support phases for this second-generation global communications satellite constellation at its satellite manufacturing facility in Gilbert, AZ. The commencement of production also signifies the opening of a Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ) at the Gilbert facility, which allows Orbital to reduce program costs by importing foreign-sourced hardware from Thales Alenia Space.
Orbital will integrate a total of 81 satellites for the constellation, including 66 low-Earth orbit operational satellites, six in-orbit spares, and nine ground-backup spacecraft, over the next three years. Orbital´s responsibilities also include ground support equipment, primary and hosted payload integration, shipment and launch integration services.
Scheduled to begin launching in 2015, Iridium NEXT will replace Iridium´s current satellite constellation of 66 cross-linked low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites that cover 100 percent of the globe. It will dramatically enhance Iridium´s ability to meet the rapidly-expanding demand for truly global mobile communications on land, at sea and in the skies.
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. Its website is at http://www.iridium.com.
Thales Alenia Space, a joint venture between Thales (67 percent) and Finmeccanica (33 percent), is a key European player in space telecommunications, navigation, Earth observation, exploration and orbital infrastructures. Its website is at www.thalesaleniaspace.com
Orbital develops and manufactures small- and medium-class rockets and space systems for commercial, military and civil government customers. Its website is at http://www.orbital.com and on Twitter @OrbitalSciences.