The McLean, Va.-based company said final qualification testing is planned soon by Thales Alenia Space in France. Iridium Communications is a satellite-communications company offering global voice and communications coverage.
“This successful mating of the communication payload and the Aireon-hosted payload to the platform is yet another critical milestone achieved in the production process, bringing the overall constellation one step closer to launch,” Iridium said.
Each of the 66 satellites planned for use in the Iridium NEXT constellation is being built at Orbital ATK in Gilbert, Ariz. The company will also keep some in-orbit and ground “spares” on hand.
“This milestone moves us forward toward full completion and testing of a fully integrated satellite, and we’re very excited,” said Scott Smith, chief operating officer of Iridium Communications Inc. “The assembly line is working well, and we’re on track with production timing. We are full speed ahead with the build, and that much closer to our first launch scheduled for later this year.”
Iridium expects to announce completion of the first flight dispenser for a launch by SpaceX of Hawthorne, Calif., “in the near future.”
The Iridium NEXT constellation is scheduled to begin launching in 2015 and targets completion by late 2017.
“When fully operational, Iridium NEXT will offer greater bandwidth and data speeds, dramatically enhancing Iridium’s ability to meet the rapidly expanding demand for truly global mobile communications on land, at sea and in the skies,” the company said.