Iridium Communications has secured a $30m US Army research and development (R&D) contract to develop a new experimental payload.

The payload will be hosted on another low-Earth orbit (LEO) commercial satellite constellation. This is expected to complement the capabilities of Iridium constellation.

The effort is intended to support the rapidly deployable small satellites (smallsat) constellation concept to deliver greater sensor-to-soldier data transmission in the battlefield.

The company will leverage its Burst technology to develop the payload. The technology is a service that can transmit space data to millions of enabled devices in one go.

Iridium government programmes executive vice-president Scott Scheimreif said: “Iridium has always been focused on providing innovative, reliable and high-value services to the US warfighter.

“This programme can help add to warfighter readiness to conduct a full range of military operations at a tactical level.

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“This includes the ability to enhance effectiveness of military units, weapons and equipment during combat against near-peer adversaries.”

This R&D project was facilitated via an other transaction agreement (OTA) agreement. The contract was signed between Advanced Technology International (ATI) and Iridium under the authority of the Aviation and Missile Technology Consortium (AMTC).

The US DoD and Iridium have partnered for over two decades, with thousands of American government subscribers using Iridium push-to-talk (PTT), voice, Internet of things (IoT), L-band broadband and Iridium Burst services.

Iridium CEO Matt Desch said: “This is one of the largest engineering contracts in Iridium’s history, and we’re pleased to once again bring the value of Iridium and our partner ecosystem to the fore at the request of the United States Army.

“It also represents another phase in the evolution of our growing relationship with the DoD, and we’re excited to engage on this experimental multi-constellation adaptation of our service.”

In April 2019, Iridium Communications won a $54m contract from the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) of the DoD to support the Enhanced Mobile Satellite Service (EMSS) gateway for four and a half years.