[Satellite TODAY 07-23-10] Iridium Communications has signed two long-term agreements designating Boeing as Iridium’s sole operations and maintenance (O&M) provider for the current Iridium constellation and grants Boeing exclusive O&M rights for the Iridium Next constellation, the companies announced July 22. The first of the two agreements will see Boeing continue operating Iridium’s current satellite constellation and will provide support for Iridium’s satellite control system. The second agreement names Boeing the exclusive operations and maintenance provider for Iridium’s next-generation constellation, Iridium Next. Boeing will further upgrade Iridium’s satellite control systems to become fully compatible with Iridium Next. The new contract replaces a 2002 agreement between the two partners and removes a contingency of that agreement which required Iridium to keep $15 million of restricted cash held in escrow to fund the de-orbiting of Iridium’s constellation. Iridium also will have the ability to eliminate and/or re-assign Boeing employees to other programs, such as Iridium Next, as operational needs permit. Boeing has been under contract since 2002 to operate and maintain Iridium’s satellite constellation under a fixed-price contract supporting more than 200 Boeing employees deployed at Iridium’s Chandler, Ariz., technical support center and the company’s Leesburg, Va., network operations center. Although Iridium did not disclose the value of the contract, analysts at Bloomberg and Raymond James speculated that the value fell between $50 million and $77 million, or, about two-thirds of Iridium’s cost of service.