Iridium Communications Inc. has announced that it has been awarded a research and development contract worth up to $30 million by the United States Army (Army) to develop a payload to be hosted on small satellites that supports navigation systems, guidance and control for the global positioning system (GPS) and GPS-denied precision systems. The new experimental Iridium payload is intended to be hosted by another Low Earth Orbit (LEO) commercial satellite constellation, complementing the Iridium constellation's capabilities.
Through this contract, the Army intends to develop this payload to support the concept of a rapidly deployable smallsat constellation to provide more effective sensor-to-soldier data transmission when in the field. The development of this new payload is based on Iridium Burst technology, a unique service that can transmit data to millions of enabled devices at a time from space.
Scott Scheimreif, executive vice president, government programs, Iridium said that Iridium has always been focused on providing innovative, reliable and high-value services to U.S. warfighters. He said that this program can help add to warfighter readiness to conduct a full range of military operations at a tactical level. This includes the ability to enhance the effectiveness of military units, weapons and equipment during combat against near-peer adversaries.
The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and Iridium have partnered for more than 20 years, with hundreds of thousands of U.S. government subscribers utilizing Iridium push-to-talk (PTT), voice, IoT, L-band broadband and Iridium Burst services. The continuing growth in adoption of Iridium services also brings increased collaboration between the government and Iridium's ecosystem of partners that bring their knowledge to help further complement and advance the DoDs SATCOM capabilities. For this contract, Iridium partners Satelles and SEAKR will bring their expertise as subcontractors to assist with development.
Matt Desch, CEO of Iridium said that this is one of the largest engineering contracts in Iridium's history, and they’re pleased to once again bring the value of Iridium and their partner ecosystem to the fore at the request of the United States Army. He also said that it represents another phase in the evolution of their growing relationship with the DoD, and they’re excited to engage in this experimental multi-constellation adaptation of their service.
This research and development project was enabled through an OTA in support of the Army and was entered into between Advanced Technology International (ATI) and Iridium under the authority of the Aviation and Missile Technology Consortium (AMTC). The OTA was developed through the authority of the Department of Defense to carry out these types of prototype projects and to further streamline the process for adopting new technology solutions from various industries.
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Click here to learn more about Iridium Burst Technology.