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re: Iridium to de-orbit their satellites?



Regarding the reasoning for Iridium to de-orbit their
satellites, it was a somewhat controversial part of their
license award from the FCC.  With the number of satellites being
so large -- not to mention the potential for extensive
replenishment, all operating at roughly the same altitude 
(800 km), the onus was put upon them to 'clear their own space'
so to speak.

If I remember correctly (I"m not at the office), each satellite
carried ~200 lbs of fuel for the deorbiting maneuver.  As
Franklin said in his post, some (6 at the last count I saw) of
the Iridium satellites are already inoperable, which makes
intentional deorbiting impossible. 

Whether you liked them or not, Iridium's failure will
undoubtedly have a massive impact on the satellite industry and
LEOs in particular.  We've seen it at ORBCOMM (my employer). At
an ITU meeting last week in South America, *all* the LEO
companies -- operating or proposed (Orbcomm, Globalstar, ICO,
Teledesic, and Skybridge at the meeting I participated in) took
a lot of heat, cynicism and skepticism.  It really is to
everyone's advantage that *all* succeed. 

Funny about all is.  The success or failure of these systems
seems more to be related to perceptions than reality.  Iridium's
phone and pagers do work. Globalstar's phones and packet service
do work.  Orbcomm's data service does work.  New or different
technology seems to scare regulators and the marketplace. 

Eric W3DQ
Washington, DC 
w3dq@amsat.org 


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