For Iridium, NEXT is PRIME

©Iridium

Iridium NEXT

Eight months after announcing Iridium PRIME, a turnkey hosted payload solution, Iridium is proceeding full speed ahead with the venture after garnering enough support from potential customers.

Built on the legacy of Iridium NEXT and leveraging the supply chain know-how from that program, Iridium PRIME is the next commercial product in the pipeline.

Iridium NEXT is Iridium's next generation satellite constellation of 66 satellites with 6 onorbit spares and 9 ground spares. The NEXT constellation will be deployed between 2015 and 2017 on SpaceX Falcon 9's and the Russian Dnepr, the converted Russian ballistic missile. The Falcon 9 can launch 10 Iridium satellites at one time while Dnepr can launch two.

This isn't the first hosted payload product Iridium is marketing. The NEXT constellation also has hosted payload capability, albeit a smaller offering at 50kg for payloads and which has been completely sold out to Aireon and Harris.

PRIME uses the same satellite bus as NEXT, which David Anhalt, Vice President of the programs describes as their "commodity bus platform". The primary difference between the NEXT and PRIME bus is that with the removal of the L-band hardware, the available hosted payload space is almost the entire Nadir deck area with an allowance for 215kg of payload with 650 watts of payload power (1110 W at peak) and a data rate of 1 mbps continuous up to 17 mbps.

One of the new products big selling points according to Iridium is that customers using PRIME will save "at least 50% of the costs of stand-­alone [hosted] payloads."

Like the NEXT constellation, PRIME can have up to 66 satellites in its constellation, if demand is there.

At this time, Anhalt says while no one has signed a contract, they have strong interest from over 3 dozen parties with a breakdown of about 1/3 each in the commercial, civil and defence segments.

Iridium's notional schedule for PRIME is to keep the commodity bus assembly rolling along after the NEXT program has completed its assembly run and to start launching PRIME satellites six months after the last NEXT satellite has launched with a Q4 2017 as the target timeframe.

Competition in the hosted payload segment is growing including the announcement at the National Space Symposium of new venture called OmniEarth LLC by partners Harris Corp., Draper Laboratory and Dynetics.

The goal of OmniEarth is to create a constellation of 18 satellites which will cover 100% of the Earth once per day with high resolution analytics-grade, multispectral imagery data and products. Each satellite would include 80 kg of hosted payload space per satellite.

- More coverage from the 30th National Space Symposium.

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