The Iridium constellation consists of 66 Low Earth Orbit (LEO), cross-linked satellites and has multiple in-orbit spares. The constellation operates as a fully meshed network and is the largest commercial satellite constellation in the world. The Iridium service began as a commercial network but soon became a critical service for government and military users worldwide.
In April 2006 the U.S. DoD Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) awarded Iridium a contract for commercial mobile satellite services for voice, data, and pager services utilizing the Iridium satellite constellation. Through this DISA contract, Iridium was also approved to provide the 9601 data modem to the US DoD, and other government users. The 9601 meet broad requirements among users in defense, and homeland security implementing the standard in support of logistics, force tracking, remote sensing and other data exchange applications. Another application established over-the-horizon ‘push-to-talk’ voice and data communications service demonstrated in “Netted Iridium” test conducted by U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) Warfighting Lab, in 2006.
Iridium plans to deploy its next generation ‘Iridium Next’ satellite constellation within the next 7 years. The new network will extend the capacity and availability of the current system by offering high capacity and short messaging data communications for mission critical applications. The company expects the new constellation will be fully operational in the next decade. Through NEXT, Iridium plans to extend its current voice communications services to offer high bandwidth data, voice and short messaging services based on modern IP- based architecture. The company is planning to spend more than US$2 billion to construct and deploy the new network. The company plans to finance the expansion from its established and growing cash flow, from strategic partners and from the capital markets.