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Iridium NEXT passes review

Iridium Communications reports that it has successfully completed a Critical Design Review (CDR) of the complete Iridium NEXT satellite network system, which it says has demonstrated its design is valid and on schedule for a first launch in early 2015.

The company says that the review represents an important transition from the network design to the fabrication and testing phase of Iridium's next-generation constellation.

The Iridium NEXT satellite network will also serve as a platform for the company's newly announced Iridium PRIME programme to carry hosted payloads for third parties on its satellites, which it says offers an estimated cost saving of 50 per cent or more compared to current stand-alone solutions - while also providing another revenue stream for Iridium that will contribute to the cost of construction of the network.

"We're very proud of the successful completion of the CDR phase under the direction of our prime contractor Thales Alenia Space," said Scott Smith, Iridium's chief operating officer.

"The entire Iridium NEXT Mission Team working on this programme represents the best and the brightest in the industry, and collectively we strive to consistently meet the highest standards of design, engineering and innovation within the timelines of the Iridium NEXT programme."

"Completing the CDR phase establishes that all components of the satellites will properly function as designed in the dynamic environment of the new constellation, keeping the Iridium NEXT programme schedule on track and on budget."

Thales Alenia Space is leading the design and construction of the satellites for the Iridium NEXT constellation and will partner with Iridium to provide and produce a new satellite bus for Iridium PRIME, maintaining inter-satellite crosslink functionality and the ability to fly within the Iridium NEXT constellation.

In addition, the companies will work together to develop a Hosted Payload Controller for the Iridium PRIME bus to ensure independence and diversity of missions on Iridium PRIME satellites. Customers with compatible missions will be able to share the platform-minimising costs.

"Thales Alenia Space is proud to work with Iridium on the largest satellite constellation in the history of the industry," said Nathalie Smirnov, EVP telecommunication, Thales Alenia Space.

"With Iridium NEXT and Iridium PRIME satellites, this constellation will be ready to offer customers ground-breaking choice and flexibility for their technology solutions and hosted payloads."

By completing the CDR phase of the Iridium NEXT programme, the next key milestone is the Low-Rate Initial Production (LRIP) Readiness Review, scheduled for completion in the first quarter of 2014.

The review signals the completion of flight hardware design and qualification activities, and it will demonstrate that processes and procedures, equipment, and personnel are ready for the start of satellite production.

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