Iridium picks two finalists to build its next-gen satellite network

Logo IridiumIridium has made another step towards the construction of a new satellite phone network that will replace the current, 20-year-old design. Lockheed Martin and Thales Alenia Space will compete for the opportunity to become the primary contractor for Iridium??™s ???Next??? network of satellites.

Iridium today said that the two companies were chosen as a result of their ???initial, innovative constellation design concepts; demonstrated understanding of performance requirements and capabilities; and preliminary cost estimates for the manufacture and launch of Iridium Next.??? Loral was sent packing.

Over the next nine months, Iridium expects to work with Lockheed Martin and Thales Alenia Space on more details and award one of the two companies a ???full-scale development agreement??? by the middle of 2009.

???The selection of Lockheed Martin and Thales Alenia Space is a major milestone for us,??? stated Matt Desch, CEO and chairman of Iridium. ???This program reflects our commitment to the expansion of our amazing and very unique network, and to making our services even more powerful and cost effective for our customers as we replace our technical marvel of a network with an even more powerful one.???

Iridium announced in February of 2007 that it was beginning to plan its next-generation satellite network, dubbed ???Next???. There are not many details about this network available yet, but we do know that Iridium will increase the bandwidth and adapt an IP fabric. Using an Internet Protocol-based architecture, Iridium hopes to take the Internet from the ground to space, offer more flexibility and compatibility as well as new functions.

Among other features, Iridium plans to integrate cameras into the satellites and there will be an opportunity for ???secondary payloads???, which could include government and scientific instruments for weather monitoring, according to Iridium. Also, the company plans to provide global navigation features as well other applications ???beyond communications???. The new network is scheduled to go into operation by 2013 and remain operational into the 2030s. Iridium claims it currently has more than 285,000 subscribers.

Source: TG Daily

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