News Keeping you up to date
5th May 2016

Iridium NEXT – Certus is on its way to the maritime communications market!

Satcom Global is delighted to announce that Iridium Communications will launch the first set of NEXT satellites in July 2016 following the recent completion of manufacturing and testing phase of its first satellites. The finished satellites are being prepped for storage before shipping to Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, USA where they will be launched into orbit later this year.

The launch in July will mark a crucial milestone in the actualisation of the  Iridium NEXT satellite network, which will consist of 66 low-earth orbit satellites, six in-orbit spare satellites and nine spare satellites on the ground. Once fully operational, the high performance network will power the Iridium Certus service, producing faster and more affordable global broadband services up to 1.4 Mbps. The service will offer a platform of enterprise-grade solutions that are scalable and reliable across broadband, land mobile, government and M2M markets, as well as the maritime market. Iridium Certus will deliver an L-Band maritime solution through newly designed Iridium Pilot terminals, offering a reliable primary maritime satellite solution, or a global back-up solution to VSAT for ships of all shapes and sizes travelling the globe.

As the global satellite network providers makes their preparations for the summer launch and gears up to increase production speed, we want to take a look at just how much preparation is required ahead of deploying the next-generation constellation. The scale and sophistication of the Iridium NEXT constellation is unprecedented in the satellite community, and Iridium have brought in experts Orbital ATK, a subcontractor to Thales Alenia Space, to perform the assembly, integration, and testing of the satellites at their manufacturing facility in Gilbert, Arizona, USA.

The size and complexity of the project requires a unique assembly-line approach featuring hundreds of skilled and experienced engineers performing hundreds of thousands of man hours on over 18 different work stations, each representing critical steps toward delivering a fully functional Iridium NEXT satellite. During the last three months, the number of assembly, integration and testing engineers working on Iridium NEXT has doubled, and is expected to continue to grow as manufacturing ramps up to deliver over five satellites per month.

After assembly and integration, the satellites undergo a series of varied tests pitching the finished products against design specifications, and confirming the quality of the manufacturing process validating that the assembly line ready to move to high rate production. Among the most interesting of tests are those to ensure the satellites can withstand the harsh environmental factors and conditions including vibrations, pressures and temperatures they will face during launch and in orbit. These tests allow the engineers to confirm that the satellites will withstand the launch and operate successfully when deployed.

Commenting on the milestone, Iridium’s Chief Operating Officer, Scott Smith, said:

“Our engineers have been working tirelessly with Thales and Orbital to build the Iridium NEXT satellites and ensure that they will work as designed for many years in space. Our process must not only deliver high quality satellites for launch, but must assemble them efficiently and stay on track to meet our launch schedules. Our involvement in the design and development process, and the thorough test program they’ve endured, gives us confidence in the capabilities of these satellites. Now, with the first satellites completed and tested, we are one step closer to realizing our ultimate goal of delivering a truly next-generation, global network.”

Iridium’s Chief Executive Officer Matt Desch added,

“This milestone has been a long time coming, but signals that we’re nearing first launch. It’s been exciting to see our powerful new satellites take shape from a concept seven years ago into a working, fully tested vehicle, ready to be shipped to Vandenberg for launch. With the assembly pace picking up, we’re all excited about the potential of these new satellites and look forward to getting them all in operation by the end of 2017.”

Once fully operational, Iridium NEXT will offer a valuable addition to the Satcom Global maritime portfolio of services that we offer across a range of satellite networks. Our portfolio currently includes Ku Band VSAT services, Inmarsat FleetBroadband, Iridium OpenPort and Thuraya Maritime Broadband.  Promising high bandwidth and other functionalities such as global, real-time aircraft and ship surveillance for an affordable price, Iridium Certus could prove an exciting proposition for the maritime market

Speak to our friendly local team in your region to find out more about Iridium Certus and the services we would recommend to you in your market.

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Iridium Certus
It’s been exciting to see our powerful new satellites take shape from a concept seven years ago into a working, fully tested vehicle, ready to be shipped for launch. "
Matt Desch, Iridium Chief Executive Officer