[itwire] Iridium Communications, operator of a network of 77 low earth orbit satellites that provide global mobile voice and data communications, has awarded Thales Alenia Space a $US1.8b contract for its second generation of satellites.
Iridium's announcement intensifies competition with rival Leosats operator, Globalstar, which last month announced plans to launch the first of its second generation satellites, claiming it would gain a five year lead over Iridium. And geostationary satellite operator, Inmarsat is due to intorduce its first handheld satellite phone later this month.
Thales Alenia Space is a joint venture between Thales (67%) and Finmeccanica (33%) it has been awarded a fixed price contract for the design and construction of satellites for the Iridium NEXT constellation. It is also building Globalstar's new satellites (one hopes it has very strong Chinese walls!)
Ninety five percent of the $US1.8b credit funding for Iridium's new satellites has been guaranteed by the French export credit agency Coface and is being syndicated through French and other major international banks and financial institutions. The guarantee commitment is not conditional on Iridium raising any further debt or equity financing.
The contract covers construction of the originally planned 72 operational satellites and in-orbit spares, plus an additional nine ground spares. Total cost of Iridium NEXT, including all costs associated with development, manufacture and launch of the constellation, is now anticipated to be approximately $US2.9b.
Iridium unveils plans for second generation of leosats