Iridium Communications has secured funding for its $2.9 billion (€2.36 billion)
next-gen satellite project.
The global mobile sat provider also said it had contracted Thales Alenia Space to deliver 72 satellites in orbit, with the first to launch in early 2015.
Thales Alenia Space, a JV between French aerospace firm Thales (67%) and Italy’s Finmeccanica (33%), beat out US giant Lockheed Martin, said to be the Pentagon’s preferred contractor.
The Pentagon and other US government agencies are Iridium’s biggest customers.
Iridium said French export credit agency Coface had guaranteed to cover 95% of the Iridium Next project’s $1.8 billion credit facility. The company will not need to raise further debt or equity financing.
It said it had agreed a fixed-price contract with Thales Alenia for 72 operational satellites and in-orbit spares, plus an additional nine ground spares.
Iridium CEO Matt Desch said the Coface guarantee ensured Iridium could secure low-cost financing for the project.
“Based on the amount of this guarantee, we expect Iridium Next to be fully funded when the financing is finalized this summer,” he said.
Iridium has 359,000 customers on its current system, comprising 66 Lockheed-built satellites, launched by a Motorola-led consortium at a cost of nearly $9 billion.
The original project went into bankruptcy and was sold to the current owners for $25 million in December 2000. The company only fully emerged from bankruptcy two years ago.
Iridium’s Nasdaq stock closed at $9.25, up 54 cents, and rose another 2 cents in after-hours trading.