GAITHERSBURG, Md., April 18, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Thales Alenia Space has awarded a contract to Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) to develop, test and support integration of payload application software for the Iridium NEXT satellites. Thales Alenia Space is the prime contractor for Iridium NEXT, the next-generation satellite constellation being designed, built and launched for Iridium Communications Inc., (Nasdaq: IRDM), of McLean, Va. Iridium NEXT is expected to begin launching in 2015, and will replace the company's current satellite constellation. "Lockheed Martin, selected as the result of a competitive process, offered the lowest-risk and most comprehensive solution for the payload application software needed to meet the challenging requirements of Iridium NEXT," said Reynald Seznec, President and CEO of Thales Alenia Space. "We look forward to working with Lockheed Martin as part of delivering this program successfully." "Lockheed Martin looks forward to partnering with Thales Alenia Space on this important program," said Robert Kramer, Lockheed Martin Information Systems and Global Solutions- Defence Vice President of Operational Systems & Services. "We bring extensive full life-cycle experience in spacecraft, ground systems and software development to provide Thales Alenia an outstanding overall software solution. Our team has a thorough understanding of the Iridium NEXT system and the payload application software that will provide the important foundation for both backward compatible legacy services as well as promising new services in the near term and over the life of the new constellation." Iridium operates the world's farthest reaching communications network and largest commercial satellite constellation, providing the only truly global voice and data satellite communications service through a constellation of 66 low Earth-orbiting (LEO) satellites. Iridium NEXT will significantly enhance the capacity and services of the network.