Orbital Sciences Corporation (NYSE: ORB), one of the world’s leading space technology companies, today announced that it has started production of 81 satellites for the Iridium NEXT program as part of a contract between Orbital and Iridium’s prime contractor, French-Italian aerospace company Thales Alenia Space. Orbital will complete the assembly, integration, test and launch support phases for this second-generation global communications satellite constellation at its satellite manufacturing facility in Gilbert, AZ. The commencement of production also signifies the opening of a Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ) at the Gilbert facility, which allows Orbital to reduce program costs by importing foreign-sourced hardware from Thales Alenia Space.
“Ten years ago, this factory was created with large scale production in mind,” said Jason Yocum, Orbital’s Senior Program Director for the Iridium NEXT production program. “Today, at the Gilbert facility, we produce cutting-edge satellites that are executed with the highest degree of excellence and professionalism. As always, we appreciate the support we have received from the Town of Gilbert as we begin to use this unique facility for its intended purpose – as an international high-rate satellite production factory.”
Orbital worked closely with the Town of Gilbert to develop the new FTZ, enabling the company to develop a highly efficient satellite production line. Orbital will integrate a total of 81 satellites for the constellation, including 66 low-Earth orbit operational satellites, six in-orbit spares, and nine ground-backup spacecraft, over the next three years. Orbital’s responsibilities also include ground support equipment, primary and hosted payload integration, shipment and launch integration services.
“We thank Orbital for their partnership and cooperation in creating Gilbert’s first Foreign Trade Zone,” said John Lewis, Mayor of Gilbert, AZ. “It takes a tremendous amount of effort to prepare for a project of this magnitude and we are excited for this international effort to be happening here in Gilbert.”