Iridium Completes Historic $3 Billion Satellite Constellation Upgrade
Matthew Greenwood posted on February 22, 2019 |

After almost a decade, Iridium has upgraded its communications network—in space as well as on the ground. The last two satellites of the Iridium NEXT constellation satellites were positioned in orbit in early February, concluding an unprecedented project that saw the company methodically replace its entire aging satellite network with state-of-the-art communications satellites.

The Iridium network’s satellites are cross-linked to provide uninterrupted real-time data transmission service anywhere on the planet—including ocean and polar regions—with significantly reduced reliance on ground stations.

The Iridium NEXT project consisted of eight SpaceX launches that put a total of 75 satellites into orbit: 66 are active components of the network, while nine are functioning as in-orbit spares. The satellites were built by Thales Alenia Space.

The upgraded Iridium constellation enables cutting-edge services such as Certus, the company’s recently launched broadband service, as well as specialized services like the Aireon global aircraft tracking and surveillance system. It also continues to service Iridium’s existing network services—which didn’t experience any significant disruptions while the old satellites were being replaced.

Iridium NEXT claims to be the most sophisticated communications network in history.

Not only did the company upgrade its in-orbit network—it also boosted its on-the-ground capabilities. Iridium unveiled its new small-form-factor Certus 9770 transceiver for consumers and industrial clients who want to tap into the full capabilities of the upgraded Iridium NEXT network. This device will enable portable and Internet of Things (IoT)-friendly applications with smaller components, lower costs and higher data transmission speeds—extending the reach and effectiveness of the satellites. It is the first in a series of new devices that will provide the same capabilities of existing narrowband antennas at up to 35 times the speed as currently available devices. The Certus 9770 promises to be particularly useful for aviation, maritime, IoT and land mobile markets.

In space and on the surface of the Earth, Iridium is making a name for itself in delivering worldwide high-speed communications with its new upgraded network.

“Iridium NEXT, one of the most sophisticated communication systems in the world, is now totally deployed and fully operational,” said Jean-Loïc Galle, CEO of Athena Thales Space. “All the satellites are interconnected, and we have ensured a continuity of service without any interruption. We did it!”

Want to read more about the satellite constellations in orbit? Check out Constellation Satellites to Begin Remapping Earth.

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