By John Bloom
Iridium the satellite tv for pc approach used to be a mind-boggling technical accomplishment, definitely the way forward for communique. the single challenge was once that Iridium the corporate used to be a advertisement catastrophe. purely months after launching provider, it was once $11 billion in debt, burning via $100 million a month and crippled through baroque expense plans and agreements that pressured calls via Moscow, Beijing, Fucino, Italy, and in different places. financial ruin was once inevitable—the greatest to that time in American historical past. And while no genuine dealers looked as if it would materialize, it gave the look of Iridium could pass down as only a “science experiment.”
That is, till Dan Colussy received a wild notion. Colussy, a former head of Pan-Am now retired and dealing on his golfing video game in Palm seashore, heard approximately Motorola’s plans to “de-orbit” the approach and determined he could purchase Iridium and by some means flip round one of many largest mistakes within the historical past of business.
In Eccentric Orbits, John Bloom masterfully lines the notion, improvement, and launching of Iridium and Colussy’s tireless efforts to prevent it from being destroyed, from conferences along with his motley investor workforce, to the Clinton White condominium, to the Pentagon, to the search for patrons in specified ops, delivery, aviation, mining, seek and rescue—anyone who would want a sturdy cell on the finish of the Earth. Impeccably researched and fantastically instructed, Eccentric Orbits is a rollicking, unforgettable story of technological success, enterprise failure, the military-industrial complicated, and one of many maximum offers of all time.
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Extra resources for Eccentric Orbits: The Iridium Story
There’s an enormous aversion within the halls of Washington toward anything that smacks of propping up private industry with government guarantees, but it had happened at least once before in history. Colussy worked for Pan American World Airways during the Vietnam War, and he recalled the day Pan Am canceled passenger service out of Saigon because the Vietcong were shooting at planes during takeoff and landing. The State Department wanted Pan Am to continue passenger service to and from Saigon—for symbolic reasons, if nothing else—and the Pentagon needed Pan Am’s charters for rest-and-recreation flights to Bangkok and Hong Kong.
It’s probably impossible. Motorola doesn’t care what happens to the satellites, and apparently no one else does either. Any of a hundred American companies could save Iridium with what amounted to pocket change for them, and yet everyone seemed willing to stand by while the constellation was scrapped. It looked like Iridium was going away and he could go back to the driving range. Then he felt a pang from twenty years ago: it was the pang of losing, and he hated it. Review the evidence one more time, he thought.
What was at stake here was nothing less than one hundred years of scientific and technological development that, if destroyed, might never again be duplicated. The Iridium constellation was something the public probably didn’t even understand. Jaded by the word “satellite,” thinking of them as passive reflectors for their TV signals and technical doodads that floated around in space spying on other countries, the average investor might never get up to speed on what Iridium really was. Even the science-minded probably put these satellites in the same class as the Defense Navigation Satellite System, better known as GPS, which had been in orbit since 1973 but only available to the public since 1988.