Fieldstone Partners was retained by Iridium Communications in February 2011 to help optimize the hosted payload opportunity for Iridium NEXT, the Company’s second generation low-earth orbit satellite constellation. Iridium was able to design its 66 operational new satellites to provide up to 50 kg of mass and 50 watts of power for one or more hosted payloads that could take full advantage of the Iridium global network. Although a relatively small amount of “SWaP” (Size, Weight and Power), it was a once-in-a-generation opportunity for some form of monitoring on a global scale.
Commercial aircraft flying into the United States, Europe and most other developed areas of the world will soon be required to install ADS-B transceivers, which will transmit a twice-a-second data string containing precise GPS locational data, as well as altitude, speed, vector and other data. Iridium determined that the optimal hosted payload would be a set of receivers, which could receive and sort these ADS-B navigational signals from commercial aircraft, on all of the 66 operational low-earth-orbit satellites. The FAA and other ANSPs (Air Navigation Service Providers) will access those signals with terrestrial antennas, but only for areas over or immediately adjacent to developed land masses. The receivers on board Iridium NEXT satellites will extend that aircraft monitoring to every part of the globe, including the oceans and remote regions.
Fieldstone recruited NEXA Capital Partners, a Washington, D.C. aviation advisory firm, to partner with it on the project. Fieldstone and NEXA’s role included the following:
- Preparation of a detailed business plan in 2011 for the proposed global aviation monitoring capability
- Assistance in the competitive process to choose the preferred payload manufacturer and negotiate the contract terms. Harris Corporation was selected in June 2012. ITT Exelis was chosen to provide certain data processing and other services.
- Contact and negotiations with numerous potential strategic partners for the new capability. Aireon LLC was formed in June 2012 as a joint venture between Iridium and NAV CANADA (the ANSP of Canada), with NAV CANADA agreeing to fund $150 million of equity.