Thales Taps MDA and ViaSat for Iridium Ka-band Gear

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MDA Corp. of Canada, and ViaSat of Carlsbad, Calif., will provide Ka-band equipment to enable intersatellite and gateway Earth station links for the second-generation Iridium mobile communications satellite constellation under separate contracts with a combined value of about $80 million, the two companies announced.

Both contracts are with Thales Alenia Space of France and Italy, prime contractor for Iridium Next. Eighty-one second-generation Iridium satellites are being built, of which 72 are planned to be launched starting in 2015. The 72-satelllite fleet includes 66 operational satellites and six in-orbit spares. The remaining nine satellites will be on-ground spares.

Richmond, British Columbia-based MDA will provide 486 Ka-band antennas for the constellation. The antennas will be used to permit each Iridium satellite to be “cross-linked” to four other spacecraft, two in the same orbital plane and one in each of the two adjacent planes, MDA said.

The antennas also will permit Ka-band links between the satellite and the Iridium ground network of gateway Earth stations for tracking and control functions.

MDA said its contract is valued at about 40 million Canadian dollars ($41 million).

ViaSat Corp.’s contract, valued at about $40 million, calls for the construction of Ka-band transmit/receive modules that will use the MDA antennas for the same intersatellite and Earth station communications.

MDA said it won the contract based on its experience with other Ka-band satellite programs including ViaSat’s ViaSat-1 and Hughes Network Systems’ Jupiter high-throughput consumer broadband satellites, both of which are under construction; and the Ka-Sat high-throughput consumer broadband satellite that is in orbit and scheduled to enter service for Paris-based Eutelsat by June.