In the final version Iridium had 70 low-orbit satellites
up in the sky before they went bankrupt
On the 7th of December 2000, the US Pentagon
, largest corporate user of the Iridium communication satellites (2000 subscribers), has stepped in and offered Iridium Satellite LLC
a $72 million deal to keep the satellites up in the orbit for two years, provided Iridium supplies unlimited airtime
to the government, military and coast-guard users.
The satellites were originally going to be taken out of the orbit later on in December 2000
by Motorola. Iridium
accepted the deal, and has agreed to provide unlimited airtime to more than 20000 government users, including military
, the Secret Service
, Drug Enforcement Administration
and other US federal agencies. After the initial two-year period the contract may be extended up to the year 2007, with the total funding going into Iridium
reaching $252 million.
According to a policy paper provided by The Pentagon
after the announcement of the deal, the de-orbiting of the satellites "... (could have) created widespread anxiety and lead to a public outcry for ill-considered government action"
. The paper also expressed concern that there is no federal regulatory policy
on how to handle a mass de-orbiting of satellites, since it has never happened before
"Although neither the FCC nor the executive branch believed it had any basis for blocking the mass de-orbit, both were concerned about the 'regulatory vacuum' into which Motorola's proposed action fell,"
the paper said.
also expressed its needs for additional satellite telephone communications, citing the example of the terrorist attack on the USS Cole
earlier this year, when the power on the ship was knocked out by the explosion and the crew had to rely on satellite phones