Interior of Orbital's Gilbert, AZ satellite manufacturing facility where the final assembly, integration and test of the Iridium NEXT satellites will take place. (PHOTO: Orbital Sciences Corporation)Under the new contract, Orbital will integrate the communications payloads and platforms of the low-Earth orbit Iridium NEXT satellites being built by Thales Alenia, and then test the systems at its manufacturing facility in Gilbert, Ariz. Michael Larkin, Executive Vice President and General Manager of Orbital’s Space Systems Group, said, “Orbital’s extensive experience in spacecraft assembly, integration and test for customers around the world, combined with the capacity of our Gilbert operation, made Orbital a natural fit to serve as the systems integrator for the Iridium NEXT program in the U.S. Our team is eager to begin this exciting and long-term program and is committed to providing high-quality services to our customer.” “The selection of Orbital is the result of a competitive process to identify the most efficient approach to meeting the challenging requirements for the production of a large constellation such as Iridium NEXT,” said Reynald Seznec, president and CEO of Thales Alenia Space. “Orbital and Thales Alenia have been working together for several years, establishing a long relationship through multiple successful joint programs.” Iridium CEO Matt Desch said, “We are delighted that Thales Alenia has selected Orbital as systems integrator, which represents another major step forward in the development and construction of Iridium NEXT. With this contract, Orbital becomes part of the most significant commercial space project in the world. Orbital – like Iridium – is a long-time and trusted U.S. Government partner, which should advance the objective of hosting payloads on our new satellites for projects such as Earth observation, scientific monitoring and space situational awareness.