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Iridium reaches NEXT phase

Iridium has announced the completion of the satellite preliminary design review phase for its next-generation satellite constellation, Iridium NEXT.

With the planned commencement of launches for the satellites now approximately three years away, this phase concludes the preliminary design and specifications for all elements of the satellite system, including payload, main mission antenna, feeder links and cross links.

“The foundation for Iridium NEXT satellite design is complete,” said Scott Smith, executive vice president, Iridium NEXT.

“By successfully finalising the first phase of the programme design process, our engineers and partners, under the direction of our prime contractor Thales Alenia Space, have now begun the detailed design phase, which includes building prototype hardware of all elements, including satellites, antennas and ground infrastructure.”

“We have an amazing, innovative group of partners - the Iridium NEXT Mission Team, as we call it - and we are confident in the tremendous progress we have made on the world's most significant commercial space programme.”

After completing the preliminary design phase Iridium and its partners will now begin constructing engineering model units that will be used to verify the design and performance of the system prior to the start of full construction in 2013.

Among the prototypes under construction are the constellation’s feeder links and cross links, which will be responsible for communicating to ground stations and between satellites, respectively.

Payload and main mission antennas will also be built and tested to ensure reliability, resilience and compatibility.

After the first set of launches in 2015, Iridium hopes to complete the replacement of its current constellation with Iridium NEXT and have the system fully operational in 2017.

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