Iridium Communications will launch the first line of its NEXT satellites from Vandenberg Air Force Base on September 12.
The company said Tuesday Thales Alenia Space and Orbital ATK have completed assembly, integration and testing of the 81 satellites on the assembly line, which includes 66 operational satellites to replace the current Iridium network.
“After more than seven years of effort, the first of our next-generation satellites are finally ready for space,” said Iridium CEO Matt Desch.
Desch added the program will replace the largest commercial satellite constellation in space with new technology that works to help Iridium support connectivity needs.
Assembly, integration and test activities — such as production, vibration, acoustic and thermal vacuum testing — were held at an Orbital ATK manufacturing facility in Arizona.
Iridium said SpaceX has shipped the first two completed Iridium NEXT satellites and it expects to have all satellites ready for launch at Vandenberg by August.
The company added all NEXT satellites are scheduled for launch by late 2017 and the constellation will help Aireon‘s satellite-based system provide global aircraft surveillance for its customers.