It looks like Iridium’s CEO Matt Desch wasn’t just going to ring the NASDAQ bell for no good reason. Iridium Communications has just announced its selection of the vendor for building of its 81 satellites for the next-generation satellite network, aka IridiumNEXT. After almost two years of consideration, Thales Alenia, a French-Italian aerospace conglomerate, has been selected over the US-based Lockheed Martin Corp. Both companies arguably build great satellites (Lockheed Martin is reported to have participated in creating the current Iridium satellite fleet), but this deal might have been decided by the French government agreeing to guarantee 95% of the $1.8 billion credit facility required to complete the project.
The plan is to have the first launch in the first quarter of 2015 with total 81 satellites to be built: 66 operating satellites, 6 spare units in orbit for rapid deployment and 9 spares on the ground. The selection of the launch company is yet to be announced.