Iridium Places $2.1 Billion Satellite Order

 - June 3, 2010, 12:59 PM

Iridium Communications of McLean, Va., has ordered 81 satellites from Thales Alenia Space of France to upgrade its global satellite network. The $2.1 billion deal includes 66 low-earth-orbit satellites for the operational constellation, with the rest to serve as spares. The first satellite launch is scheduled for the first quarter of 2015. The Iridium Next satellite network is expected to remain operational until at least 2030, officials said. Lockheed Martin Space Systems was the losing bidder in a competition that began in 2007. Iridium currently has about 360,000 subscribers, including thousands of business jet operators. Likely to reach a total development cost of $2.9 billion, the Iridium Next network will include higher bandwidth data services and will be backward compatible with current Iridium gear, said CEO Matt Desch. Iridium’s current Motorola-designed network began operating in 1998 but soon ran into financial trouble. The business was purchased in 2000 by investors who paid a tiny fraction of the original $5 billion development cost.