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Hosted Payload Initiative for remote sensing

Iridium : 20 November, 2009  (New Product)
Technical studies by Iridium reveal feasibility of providing hosted remote sensing and earth observation payloads using Iridium Next
Iridium Communications has completed numerous technical studies, working with independent technology partners, that demonstrate the feasibility of hosting earth observation and remote sensing payloads on its planned/proposed next-generation satellite constellation, Iridium Next.

“Independent, detailed technical studies led by Iridium for the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) have confirmed that Iridium’s planned next-generation constellation of 66 low-earth orbiting (LEO) cross-linked satellites can provide a unique and unprecedented capability for a wide range of remote sensing missions for monitoring global climate data and other environmental data,” said Dr José Achache, director of GEO, an intergovernmental organization based in Geneva, Switzerland. “GEO is creating a framework for governments and industry to explore how new data-providing sources, such as Iridium Next, can support the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) by delivering required water and climate observations.”

“The earth observation community has a unique window of opportunity, starting now, to augment our ability to capture earth climate, weather and environmental data through hosted payloads on Iridium Next,” said Achache. “It’s important to act quickly to ensure the secondary payloads can be included on the Iridium Next satellites, which will be launched between 2014 and 2016.”

In addition to the GEO studies, Iridium has completed several technical studies for US-based space agencies examining specific hosted payload possibilities with Iridium Next. These include Global Positioning System radio occultation (GPSRO) to measure global atmospheric temperature and humidity profiles; broadband radiometers for measuring the earth’s radiation budget; solar total and spectral irradiance measurements; radar altimetry to detect sea surface and ice heights; multi-spectral imagers for ocean and land color, deforestation and desertification; and to validate the feasibility of commercial monitoring of ozone levels in the earth’s atmosphere.

The US Department of Defence (DoD) is also investigating the feasibility of hosted payloads on the Iridium Next constellation to support requirements for space situational awareness.

“Hosted payloads on Iridium Next represent public-private partnership at its best,” said Lee Demitry, Iridium’s executive vice president for Iridium Next. “By sharing the infrastructure with commercial satellites, public agencies can realize unprecedented visibility of the earth’s surface and atmosphere at a small fraction of the cost of developing and deploying dedicated earth observation satellites.”

Lockheed Martin and Thales Alenia Space are competing to become the prime contractor for Iridium Next and both companies are designing hosted payloads accommodation in their proposed Iridium Next satellite design. Iridium plans to announce its Iridium Next prime contractor selection in the coming months.
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