Iridium completes $3 Billion satellite constellation upgrade

February 07, 2019 //By Jean-Pierre Joosting
Iridium completes $3 Billion satellite constellation upgrade
Iridium Communications has completed its $3 billion satellite constellation upgrade campaign known as Iridium® NEXT, and has also introduced a new small-form-factor transceiver known as the Iridium Certus 9770, which will enable the creation of new consumer and industrial applications that are highly portable and IoT-friendly, optimized for small size and low cost, yet with higher speeds than in the past thanks to the upgraded Iridium satellite network.

The completion of the Iridium NEXT campaign comes as the final two satellites required to complete the network refresh were activated on February 5th at approximately 2:15 p.m. EST. With a fully operational constellation, featuring 66 new Iridium satellites and no further launches planned, Iridium has concluded its nearly decade-long capital-intensive program that created an upgraded network both in space and on the ground. After spending several hundred million dollars per year to build and deploy the new network, Iridium expects capital costs to decrease to approximately $35 million per year, with revenues continuing to grow as the company expands into newer revenue streams like broadband, IoT and hosted payloads.

First announced in 2010, the Iridium NEXT campaign featured eight launches with SpaceX. In total, 81 satellites were built by prime contractor Thales Alenia Space, of which 75 were launched, with 66 in the operational constellation and nine serving as on-orbit spares. Thales Alenia Space was responsible for design and integration of the new satellites, including launch and early operations testing in partnership with Iridium's team at the company's Satellite Network Operations Center in Virginia.

The upgraded Iridium constellation enables never before possible services such as the AireonSM global aircraft tracking and surveillance system and Iridium CertusSM, the company's latest broadband service, which launched commercially in January 2019. The upgraded network is also fully compatible with the original satellite constellation's services, a notable accomplishment given the size and scope of the upgrade.


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