The launch of five Iridium communications satellites from Vandenberg Air Force Base on Sunday completes a 66-satellite system and keeps on schedule a September start-up target for a worldwide digital telephone network, the company has announced.
The company plans to offer full global communications coverage and a variety of communications services - including voice, data, fax and paging - to customers with Iridium hand-held telephones and pagers."We have achieved one of the critical milestones necessary to provide the first truly global, hand-held wireless phone service," said Edward F. Staiano, vice chairman and chief executive of Iridium.
In addition to the technical achievement of launching all the necessary satellites, Staiano said, "We also are on track in gaining service licenses and securing service provider partnerships that will enable us to provide truly global services.
Motorola Inc. leads the nearly $5 billion Iridium global mobile service project. Iridium is one of the most ambitious of nearly $25 billion in planned commercial satellite programs that promise consumers everything from roam-anywhere phones to snapshots from space to instant medical consultations from a continent away.
"Motorola is proud to be the developer of the world's first digital global wireless network," said CEO Christoper Galvin, noting that Motorola will operate and maintain the 66-satellite constellation for five years, with an option to run it for five additional years.
Iridium launched its first group of satellites 12 months ago. In addition to nine launches from Vandenberg in California, the company used bases in Kazakhstan and China to round out the 15-launch schedule required to get all the satellites into their low-earth orbits.