Orbital Begins Production of 81 Iridium Next Satellites

Orbital Gilbert facility

Orbital’s FTZ facility in Gilbert, Ariz. Photo: Orbital

[Via Satellite 03-28-2014] Orbital Sciences Corporation has started production of 81 satellites for the Iridium Next program as part of a contract between Orbital and Iridium’s prime contractor Thales Alenia Space. Orbital will complete the assembly, integration, test and launch support phases for the satellite constellation at its satellite manufacturing facility in Gilbert, Ariz. This production also makes Orbital’s Gilbert facility a Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ), which allows the company to reduce program costs by importing foreign-sourced hardware from Thales Alenia Space.

As a part of this constellation, Orbital will produce 66 low-Earth orbit (LEO) operational satellites, six in-orbit spares and nine ground-backup spacecraft over the next three years. Orbital is also responsible for ground support equipment, primary and hosted payload integration, shipment and launch integration services.

Iridium Next, scheduled to begin launching in 2015, will fully replace Iridium’s current satellite constellation of 66 cross-linked LEO satellites that cover the globe. It is expected to enhance Iridium’s ability to meet the expanding demand for truly global mobile communications on land, at sea and in the air.

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