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R.I.P. Iridium

Hemos posted more than 14 years ago | from the mega-loss dept.

Space 241

Archeopteryx writes, "Motorola has posted a notice that they expect, barring a financial 'White Knight,' Iridium service to end at 11:59 p.m. EST on March 17. A few questions come to mind: 1) What becomes of the abandoned satellites? They are a real nuisance to astronomers due to the 'Iridium Flash' effect, and they complicate launch windows for satellites destined for any inclination. 2) Have these any Ham Radio use? 3) Assuming there is a use for them, who owns them after they are abandoned? Any Space Law experts out there? An abandoned ship is subject to salvage laws; how about an abandoned spacecraft?"

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241 comments

W'hey! (1)

vkg (158234) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211252)

Firstly, first post? Secondly: two words "Iridium Modem". Screw voice. Think a device the size of a hardback book that will give you email access anywhere on the planet, from four AA cells.

Iridium Flash effect? (1)

ClayJar (126217) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211253)

Call me ignorant, but am I the only one who has never heard of the Iridium Flash effect? Does anyone have a link to follow? (It sounds intriguing.)

Sell the sattelites (2)

ca1v1n (135902) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211254)

Last time I heard anything about this, they were considering selling the sattelite network to NATO or the U.S. military. I don't know too much about the Iridium network, and I know it's probably not quite up to military specifications, but with a little creative engineering, they could have a nice sattelite network dirt cheap.

Re:Iridium Flash effect? (3)

g1t>>v (121036) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211255)

When the iridium satellite passes the field of view of the telescope, you see suddenly a very bright flash because the sattelite is rather reflective ... hence the name Iridium Flash :-)

Makes me wonder.... (3)

Phyxis (12181) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211256)

I have to wonder whether Iridium would have sold better if the US Gov't wasn't so antsy about being able to wiretap it.

How did Qualcomm get around this for their tri-band GlobalStar phones?

-P

To the 0wn3rz go the ComSats (4)

griffjon (14945) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211257)

Rogue communication satellites abandoned by their creators and no longer supported by their users? Satellites /designed/ for cellphone-like communication?

Hmmmmm... hack targets. *drool* Think of the freenet-style net we could bring on if someone hacked these babies and set up satelite networking. Do they have inband commands?

My bets are on the Cult of the Dead Cow to be the first to OwN these guys. Heh. I predict a satellite-hack version of king of the hill coming up.

Call me extra ignorant... (0)

Ron Harwood (136613) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211258)

...but what are the Iridium satelites used for exactly?

Iridium flashes while meteor observing (2)

waldeaux (109942) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211259)

The first time I saw an Iridium flash was while I was observing the Perseid meteor shower...

It took me a moment to realize what it was that I was seeing, but for a few tense seconds.... :-)

I Claim The Satellites (2)

quakeaddict (94195) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211260)

Let it be forever known that on this day, March 10, 2000, I lay claim to the staellites. They are mine, now and forever.

If anyone wishes to purchase one, the bidding starts at a mere $250.

Any takers?

Re:Iridium Flash effect? (1)

Niko. (89205) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211261)

I would guess that as faces of the satellite's hull catch sunlight they reflect a flash into telescopes that is much brighter than the objects the scope is trying to see, thus interfering with research and maybe even damaging the instruments.

Why doesn't the air force just use them to test anti-satellite weaponry?

Re:W'hey! (2)

TheSimon (151561) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211262)

Well it may just work, if email is worth 3,000$ to someone. That's the MSRP for the Iridium phone with a data rate of 2400 bps.
Also, I just found this article [socratek.com] on the amount of money Motorola recieves from Iridium to operate and maintain everything. Between 128 and 179 million per quarter!!

No ham use (as is) (2)

kenh (9056) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211263)

These satilites are not "tasked" for any ham bands, and it is not likely that their operating freq. can be updated without hopping on a shuttle (at a minimum).

The Iridium satellites will be bought for pennies on the dollar, and the service will resurface at much lower cost (IMHO). Will it be competitive with cell phones across town, no - but for ships at sea, scientists in the brush, etc. it will be useful.

Now, what kind of deal will there be on these phones on eBay in a few months? ;^)

Solutions for Last Century's Technology (3)

WillAffleck (42386) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211264)

1. What becomes of the satellites?

Well, my bet is the NSA will "borrow" them. Or else the military wing will use them as "hot rocks" for space defense. Sadly, due to Bill G's and Paul A's holdings, they won't be used to bombard Redmond ...

2. Ham Radio use.

Nah

3. Who owns them?

The country that the company resides in. AKA The United States of America. But if truly abandoned and noted as such, you could get salvage rights. My bet is the govt agency that takes them will file under the Black Budget restrictions, so you won't know they own them.

4. Can we pirate them? (bonus question)

Yes. Satellites keep working even after the ground crews stop them. Just give them the power up signal and reprogram them. This will show up in the next Bond movie "The Spy Who Spied On Me", when the evil Bill Sateg tries to rule the world, forgetting that he already owns it.

Re:Call me extra ignorant... (2)

Mister Attack (95347) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211265)

Iridium is a satellite telephone network. Worldwide service, very expensive.
--

lovely help (2)

CommanderTaco (85921) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211266)

gotta love those faq's at the bottom of the page...

q: can motorola help me out at all in finding an alternative satellite service provider?

a: motorola cares deeply about its customers. However, motorola feels it cannot provide you any more help than listing a couple of phone numbers at this time.

AVAST YE LUBBERS (2)

turb (5673) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211267)

While I'm not a lawyer and I don't play one on TV, if I remember rightly (My minor was Space Studies from UND) spacecraft are under the same salvage rules as abandoned ships at sea.

Now just cause Iridium is out of business doesn't classify these as abandoned craft. However if Iridium's offices etc is entirely shutting down and no more signals are sent to these craft then indeed it would seem that someone with "broadcast" capabilities could take over themselves a satellite provided they have the knowledge, software to do so.

I'm sure no matter what this will be a first in the realms of space law. If I were Iridium I'm most certainly want to give these satellites over to someone, otherwise it could be bumper cars in outspace. Certainly don't want somebody unqualified hacking on a spacecraft's navigations. (Scenes from MST 3K the Movie start rolling through my head)

Regards,

Iridium RIP (4)

gmkeegan (160779) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211268)

One of Iridium's press releases stated that if a "White Knight" was found that they had drawn up a plan for restructuring in the coming year. They also stated that the same plan had steps for de-orbiting the satellites, a process that they expect to take 6 or 7 months. http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/nm/20000306/tc/teleco ms_iridium_4.html

Iridium Satellites of Love (4)

cprincipe (100684) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211269)

Actually, these satellites were created with just this contingency in mind. Upon the failure of the company, these satellites are programmed to RAIN FIREY DEATH down upon the peoples of the Earth, resulting in THE END OF LIFE as we know it. BWA HA HA HA HA HA!!!!!!!

Either that, or they will become the new Skynet.

Ham Radio Uses (1)

BoyPlankton (93817) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211270)

I don't know what frequencies the satellites were designed to relay, but I don't think they could be used for any amateur purposes.

Boy Plankton
Still waiting to see if JAWSAT or ASUSAT are going to be turned on.

Re:Iridium Flash effect? (1)

ceo (6176) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211271)

Ya know, there's this thing called a search engine... :-)

http://www.satellite.eu.org/sat/vsohp/iridium.ht ml

Some are going to be pissed... (1)

maan (21073) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211272)

I don't myself own an Iridium phone or pager (i haven't exactly found the need for one, yet), but I'm guessing that the people that bought an Iridium phone or pager are going to be pissed (they're pretty expensive...). Unless of course it's all big companies that bought them!

Maan

Re:Iridium Flash effect? (5)

Chops-Frozen-Water (2085) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211273)

A link from an old Slashdot story is a story in Wired [wired.com] . Basically, Iridium use(s|d) a frequency that "bled" into one frequently used by radio-astronomers to observe the cosmos.
--

Beowulf 'em! (0)

mholve (1101) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211274)

Naw, seriously. Perhaps they can be re-utilized to provide connectivity, or if worse comes to worse, the shuttle can scoop 'em up and melt 'em down to fund the ISS. :)

All the sats will be de-orbited (and burned up) (3)

jjo (62046) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211275)

In addition to desperately looking for new financing, the Iridium folks will be preparing a "de-orbiting" plan for safe destruction of the Iridium constellation. (If they were just left derelict, they might cause significant problems down the road.)

If there is no last-minute financial rescue by the deadline, the de-orbiting plan will start, although it may take up to six months to complete.

Bad news for Gran Kropp (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1211276)

And a pity for the readers of Aftonbladet. Now they will not be able to chat with him on his way to the North Pole.

I have an idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1211277)

March 15th is my birthday, so how about giving me one hell of a birthday present. Then I will decide what to do (and will accept any of your suggestions) with the satellites..

Re:Iridium Flash effect? (2)

Bamfarooni (147312) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211278)

Lots of information here about flares and links to software to predict them, including a statement saying: a de-orbit plan will have to be submitted (by Motorola) to eliminate the satellite constellation.

http://www.satellite.eu.org/sat/vs ohp/iridium.html [eu.org]

Re:Iridium Flash effect? (5)

Audin (17719) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211279)

Iridium satellites have three large, flat, reflective antennas arrainged at an angle to the main spacecraft. These antennas, when at the right angle, can produce a very bright glint of reflected runlight. If you know where to look, the flares can be seen in broad daylight.

Look here: http://www2.satellite.eu.org/sa t/vsohp/iridium.html [eu.org]

They explain the effect, and even link to flare prediction software.

Re:Iridium Flash effect? (5)

Mike Van Pelt (32582) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211280)

Specifically, the antennae on the Iridium are flat and highly polished surfaces. The flashes can get as bright as -8 magnitude for a few seconds.

The web page to check out is www.heavens-above.com. Give them your latitude and longitude, and they can provide you with predictions of where to look and when.

What to do with old sats. (2)

Brooks Davis (22303) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211281)

Some of the work I do is in the space debris area, specificaly in collision avoidance. I'm not an expert, but I believe that all recent satelites are supposed to file a plan for what to do at their end of life. For LEOs (Low Earth Orbit satelites) that usually involves deorbiting them so they either burn up entierly or what doesn't burn up lands in the ocean where it isn't likely to hit something. The Iridium birds will only last a few more years before they fall out of the sky on their own. Since nobody seems to want them, I suspect they will get dumped in the Pacific.

Copy of note to Motorala (4)

Hesperus (16733) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211282)

To Whome it may concern:

It has my come to your attention that failing to find a buyer you will soon abandon your network of communications satellites, known as Iridium.

I am prepared to offer $100.00 US for your satellite network.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. I'm sure you will agree that such a remarkable sum underscores the seriousness of my offer.

Regards,

........

Re:I Claim The Satellites (2)

Bad Mojo (12210) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211283)

Correct me if I'm wrong, but unless you get on a shuttle and beat me to orbit, them there satellites is MINE.

Posession is 10/10ths of the law in space. Muhahaha!


Bad Mojo

One word (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1211284)

Echelon. How convenient. Abandoned communications satellites from an NSA-friendly company!

Abandoned? (1)

zaius (147422) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211285)

By cancelling services is Motorlla really renouncing its ownership of the sattelites? I would imagine they would keep track of them and look for their own uses for them, or perhaps sell them to cell phone companies?

I fail to see the logic behind abandoning billions of dollars worth of sattelites.

Did anyone read the FAQ? (0)

IshamaelNT (103135) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211286)

When you post an FAQ, don't you usually only post questions that have answers, not "We cannot compare other sattellite phone providers." It looks kinda silly...
---------------------------------------- --------------

Iridium Flash - lots of questions (2)

DeepDarkSky (111382) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211287)

I've never heard about the Iridium Flash thing either. But if Iridium's satellites are a nuisance to astronomers, is it merely because of the way they were made?

What if, instead, they were not made of reflective material?

The handful of iridium satellites is nothing compared to all the other debris and satellites that we have put in orbit - if iridium satellites are such nuisances to astronomers, then what about all the other ones?

Is there a set of rules for satellite construction? I'm sure there some rules that everyone follows loosely.

Is there an international organization that regulates satellite launch schedules? I'm sure there is, it's too important for there not to be any.

If satellites were problems to astronomers, should we be concerned about all the satellite launches that seem to happen all the time?

Certainly, the iridium satellites can be put to use doing something, otherwise we'd just billions of dollars of floating space junk?

Re:To the 0wn3rz go the ComSats (2)

costas (38724) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211288)

AFAIK, Iridium cannot support data transmission --which is the primary reason McCaw opted not to bail them out, since he can't use their birds for Teledesic.

Iridium sounds like an idea that was planned by a bureacracy when cell phones weren't that widespread and by the time they got around to implement it, it was already obsolete...

I think there are 7yrs left to the useful life of their constellation --another company can't use them because they're proprietary, and they'd cost too much to take care of. My guess: USAF buys them at liquidation prices and tests their sat killers ;-)...



engineers never lie; we just approximate the truth.

Re:Iridium Flash effect? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1211289)

I hope you are kidding about the anti-satellite tests. Space junk is already a really serious problem, and the idea of blowing up a bunch of satellites for test or fun makes the serious problem of tracking and avoiding space junk so much worse.

Bankruptcy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1211290)

Iridium will go into bankruptcy, and the bankruptcy trustee will sell the satellite network for whatever it will bring. The proceeds, likely to be pennies on the dollar, will go to creditors. There will be no abandoned satellites.

Harm for Radio Astronomy Even Worse than Flash (5)

astrophysics (85561) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211291)

An even bigger problem than the flash is Iridium's invasion on radio astronomy. In particular it interferes with on emission line (CO I beleive), which is important for determing metal abundances and temperatures in gas clouds.


The frequencies were protected by international treaty. Additionally, MOT agreed to respect the critical frequencies when they received nearby frequencies. Later, they went back on their word and ignored the international treaty.


In fairnes to MOT, they have worked with the major radio astronomy facilities to avoid making the frequency completely useless by scheduling windows when they would significanly limit their interference in certain locations. However, they still interfere and it makes scheduling time an even for obnoxious task for astronomers who try to maximize the utility of their observatories.


Even worse, it sets a very bad precedent for a big company to threaten to ruin an important scientific resource, and then "be nice" by being better than originally planned. What if every big company decides to put up a big network of satelites interfering with one frequency range, but agrees to be nice in certain locations at certain times? Not good for science!

Re:Iridium Satellites of Love (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1211292)

More details here [207.153.211.64] .

Re:I Claim The Satellites (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1211293)

Let it be forever known that on this day, March 10, 2000, I lay claim to the staellites. They are mine, now and forever.

You can have all the staellites. I lay claim to the satellites at this moment - 5:56pm EST on March 10, 2000.

I have decided at this point not to sell. I have yet to implement my evil^H^H^H^H master plan.

Iridium Not Dead (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1211294)

They are not folding the company yet ... just discontinuing service. If and when they fold the enterprise, the satellites will be sold to pay of creditors.

...and if all else fails... (1)

Quintus (147877) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211295)

They would always make nice target practice for the new SDI-whatsits [army.mil] ;-)

(Link is to the American (only one?) projext).

___________________

BIBLICAL IMPLICATIONS?!?!?! (1)

CiXeL (56313) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211296)

Isnt iridium also swahili for wormwood?????

Maybe they will... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1211297)

open source it now. I refuse to use a cell phone that I don't have the source code to.

Jurisdiction (2)

Esperandi (87863) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211298)

IANAL of course, but I know that anything over 200 miles off the coast in the ocean is complete legal limbo, I would imagine the same thing applies in space, although there may very well be UN agreements of something because we couldn't have people making attack satellites to kill ours and getting away with it just because its in space (like you can go 200 miles out from the coast into the ocean, slay a bunch of people, then come back with no repercussions (at least from what I've read about hospice cruises where they euthenize dozens of elderly sick people once they get 200 miles out))

Esperandi

Iridium Flash? (1)

ledward (133628) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211299)

What exactly is an Iridium Flash? i know that iridium is a communications satellite but what makes it so flashable. Is it the sun refelcting off it or its it something thats special for iridium. And if it is the sun why doesnt every other satellite do the same thing? Lets just take 'em all down!!!

Re:I Claim The Satellites (1)

anotherone (132088) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211300)

You should auction them off on Geekswap.com.

Make Seven

As far as I know... (1)

Pufferfish (100833) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211301)

Iridium (or rather, Motorola) is planning on deorbiting the satellites, rather then just leaving millions of dollars worth of stuff up there. I read it on Ars [arstechnica.com] , but they didn't seem to site a source (besides the guy who sent in the story) so it might not be true. But they're obviously not gonna to play finders-keepers with the things. If they don't find a buyer (I don't know what they would be good for, maybe some sort of wireless internet or something, or just use them to tie into another network), then they'll certainly take them down and sell them for something else (i bet a lot of the equipment in them is useful in and of itself).

Sorry guys, no free satellites...

Internet 3! Spacenet! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1211302)

I mean, how else are you going to be able to check your email and read Slashdot while trekking across the Antarctic?

I think they will just burn up. (4)

Mr T (21709) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211303)

I'm not a legal expert but... At my new job I have a TV on my desk and I generally keep it on CNBC all day to track the market and my stocks and it's the most exceptable channel to keep it on while coding (a few guys can do cartoons but it's suspect because the boss knows you want to watch them, nobody wants to admit the love CNBC) They've been talking about irridium lately too.

As it goes, last Tuesday they talked about Irridium because some guy was bailing on them, it's the guy who owns vodafon. Anyhow, if nobody buys irridium then they will stop driving the satallites and after a while they will all enter the Earth's atmosphere and burn up. A few of them might make it a while but they will all suffer the same fate eventually. CNBC made it sound like on March 17 they will turn the satallites off and just let them drift.

It's really kind of a bummer, I love the idea of a universal mobile phone. There are tons of applications for it. Irridium has been mismanaged since the get-go though. Nobody is going to be a $3000 portable phone and pay $8 a minute for service except for in the most extreme circumstances or they are the most reckless rich guys around. From what I've heard the line quality wasn't so hot either. My PCS phone works just about everywhere I've been in this country and I could easily buy a few more and use call forwarding in other jurisdictions if I needed it for much less than Irridium. There are also alternative satallite world phone ventures that are going on. I also think there are some laws in the US about satallite communication. I think NORAD or some other government agency will track your satallite and possibly even guide it for you if you for some small fee, that fee being something like they have access to your uplinks. I'm not 100% sure on it, but I suspect that once Irridium shuts down they will make sure the satallites cannot be used by anybody. I think there are a number of fears about people sniffing intelligence data to our spy satallites or determining where our spy satallites are. Perhaps someone else in the know knows the details on this.

Whatever the reasons, I'm pretty sure they will just turn the satallites off and let them crash.

Donate them to The Open Source Movement (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1211304)

I'm sure we could find some fun use for them.

Regarding Iridium (3)

phil (4362) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211305)

I must say that for what Iridium did, it did well. Technically. (Since I worked on the software I'm not going to say it sucked ;-) It's just too bad that by the time Iridium came to market, the market didn't care!

As far as the satellites are conserned, they will either (1) go in to safe mode then auto-deboost after some period of silence, or (2) Motorola will continue to spend money to command the satellites in order to control their descent so no one gets banged by space junk.

I seriously doubt the constellation will be of much use for anything other than what it was designed for, since the satellites were built for cheap and Iridium would have liked to capitalize on any alternative use.

Re:Iridium Flash effect? (1)

dead_penguin (31325) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211307)

See also:
http://www.heavens-above.com/ [heavens-above.com] . They have web-based software for predicting these, and other satellite events. A cool site all around.

...not affiliated etc.

I don't want old satelites... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1211308)

I want a Biscuit....

Have you tried Powdermilk Biscuits?
My, they're tasty, and expeditious...

thank you.

Re:Harm for Radio Astronomy Even Worse than Flash (3)

astrophysics (85561) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211309)

Sorry, it's HO, not CO. The HO line is a good probe of molecular clouds. Also HO masers provide some of the best observational evidence for a black hole at the center of some galaxy (NGC 4???).

What about the customers? (2)

emerson (419) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211310)

Hmmn. A friend of mine _JUST_ bought an Iridium pager and service so that she could stay in touch for her 6+ month trip to the Near and Middle East. Now, less than a month after this purchase, the service is completely going away.

Will she have some kind of recourse?

Will she still have this recourse available several months from now, when she actually gets back to someplace with enough connectivity to file a claim?

Enquiring minds want to know.


--

Re:Iridium Flash effect? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1211311)

The Iridium satellites have 3 highly reflective flat panels that directly reflect the sun's disk to a spot a few tens of kms wide at the earth's surface. The flashes or flares as they are sometimes called are very bright, easily seen with the naked eye sometimes even during the day. There are a number of programs or web sites that predict when a flare will be visible in your area. See http://www.satellite.eu.org/sat/ vsohp/iridium.html [eu.org] for more info.

Note this web site says "In addition, a de-orbit plan will have to be submitted to eliminate the satellite constellation."

Iridium = Uridium (1)

stx23 (14942) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211312)

Ahh, nostalgia. In the 80's a bloke by the name of Andrew Braybrook wrote a C64 game named Uridium, fly over a satellite, shoot bits off it. I didn't realise it was training for real life...

Space Law (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1211313)

According to space law one can not be held responsible for the damage an abandoned spacecraft causes. This means that an abandoned spacecraft can be subject to salvage by anyone who feels like it and has the means to do so.

I am not a space law expert, but I did take up a course on space law in college as part my aerospace enigineering degree. During this course the professor gave us an exammple of such a situation in which a sovjet satellite with a nuclear reactor on board caused some damage to other spacecrafts. The sovjets could not be held responsible because they had officially abandoned the spacecraft. It ended up that others had to clean up the mess.

So if these iridium satellites would be officially abandoned anyone who feels like it could try to "safe" them.

"Basic research is what I am doing, when I don't know what I'm doing."
Werner von Braun (The big boss at NASA a while back)

Satellite Salvage (0)

mlfallon (110606) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211314)

Hi

Wasn't there a TV show in the 70's/80's with a similar theme, some guy who owned a salvage yard built his own rocket to salage all the stuff they left behind them on the moon.

Maybe this could be the ultimate open source project, we already have the open source OS and tools, open source chip design, all we need now is a few open source rocket designs are we are on our way.

NASA use Linux maybe they would like to help out, and the Russions have all that old equipment lying around.

I think the TV show was called Salvage, and the main character was played by Andy Griffeth.

How it all started (or so I hear) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1211315)

Back in my scholar days (a few years ago) one of my profs talked about the Iridium project, involving 77 low-orbit satellites. The name came from the periodic table... 77 is Iridium (although they later scaled it back to 66 satellites).

Apparently the orbit was so low that they predicted satellites would burn up in the atmosphere every 3 or 4 years, and they would just launch replacements as the others fell off. I remember thinking this was a pretty wasteful way to run a business, replacing your entire infrastructure every 4 years.

Having never followed up on the company, I wonder if this is the way they ended up implementing it. If so, I'm guessing they'll just leave the space network as it is until it clears itself up.

Re:Iridium Flash - lots of questions (2)

astrophysics (85561) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211316)

>Is there an international organization that regulates satellite launch schedules? I'm sure there is, it's too important for there not to be any.

Yes

>If satellites were problems to astronomers, should we be concerned about all the satellite launches that seem to happen all the time?

Well, most satelites are a problem, but Iridium satelites are especially annoying. Something about their design must make them give very strong specular reflections. Sure, we'd like it if satelites were reduced in number, but we'd also like it if the ones that are up weren't as rude as Iridium satelites are.

While many satelites leave a streak across an image, Iridium Flashes can saturate several pixel and ruin an entire exposure, which might have taken hours to take. Astronomers have wised up, and try to schedule around Iridium Flashes and take shorter exposures and add them when possible. However, this means we waste our time that we should be doing scientific research correction for the obnoxousness of Iridium. Also, many observations have had to be retaken, while astronomers were still trying to figure out what was causing the problems.

Re:Iridium Flash effect? (1)

TaxSlave (23295) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211317)

Why doesn't the air force just use them to test anti-satellite weaponry?

Easy answer:

If you take out a sattelite, you run a decent chance of leaving MORE debris in space than you start with.

If any of that debris took out a useful sattelite, there'd be H to pay.

paperbacks.homepage.com [homepage.com]

Reuters article with info on Iridium de-orbiting (2)

jjo (62046) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211318)

Here is a Reuters article [yahoo.com] with information about the Iridium destruction plans.

New Satellite comms company just started launching (2)

michael.creasy (101034) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211319)

On Sunday ICO Global Communications is going to lanuch its first sat as part of a global moblie network

http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/sci/tech/newsid _673000/673221.stm

Re:Iridium Flash effect? (2)

CaptainCarrot (84625) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211320)

It's like slashdotting a telescope. Iridium satellites are so reflective that they cause numerous false hits, flooding a telescope with light and making genuine observation impossible.

Not to mention all thet is left stranded (1)

Terao (22771) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211321)

A couple of adventurers here in sweden is trying to ski to the north pole and they are abadoned up in the arctic ice when iridium threw in the towel. Well they got some radio backup systems but kinda abandoned.

Get rid of the satellites! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1211322)

Well, I hope they get rid of those satellites before some aliens get here. If the satellites stay up, it will be bad news. Then the alien mothership can hijack the abandon satellites to transmit a countdown attack sequence to all these big killer ships.

Re:Iridium Flash effect? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1211323)

Yeah. Geez, didn't you ever play Asteroids?

Re:What about the customers? (2)

Brento (26177) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211324)

Your friend would be lucky to recoup anything. The company's been in financial trouble for months, and it was pretty widely known that they were in bankruptcy. It'd be somewhat akin to buying a Daewoo car and being surprised when you can't get parts at the local Napa store next year. (What, you didn't know they were $13b in the red either? Tssk tssk...)

Sue the bastards! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1211325)

Why don't you sue them for putting that shit up in the sky? Clearly they could have designed them so they don't fuck with the pursuit of science.

Re:Call me extra ignorant... (2)

CaptainCarrot (84625) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211326)

They're a network of communications satellites in very low orbits. Users have handsets that contact the satellites directly. You can travel anywhere in the world with an Iridium telephone and are able to call anywhere else in the world, on or off the Iridium net, without depending on the local infrastructure. Theoretically a good idea, but it was badly executed.

The bondholders will become shareholders. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1211327)

The bond holders, the people who lent Iridium money, will be the shareholders in a reorganized company. As long as they can pay the salaries of the people who work there, Iridium can go on. Perhaps the new management team can come up with a sleeker design for their phones. Motorola is finding out that it's cheaper to lay cable on the bottom of the ocean and along railroad tracks. GBLX !!!!!!!!!

Self-destruction in one form or another (1)

_Mustang (96904) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211328)

is the most typical end-of-life for decomissioned satelite. I don't mean that the device "spontaneously" blows up though it is not unheard of for the self-destruct to be issued. Most usual is that a course-change is issued which takes the satellite into a decayed orbit resulting in it's burning up in the atmosphere or more commonly landing in the ocean and breaking up on impact. This isn't usually problematic since these are hardly what anyone would call implementations of "advanced" or "secret" technology.
The older generation originally cost as much as 1 Billion dollars to make and put into orbit which naturally included everything from actual manufacturing of the device to the cost of groundcrew and rocket fuel, so these will be a costly writeoff for someone. Moderm satellites have benefitted immensely from the advance of technology in all sectors and can cost as little as 100Million for the whole thing. Naturally it depends on whether the device is intended for Low-elevation or high-elevation orbit planes, but that just means that if the need to rebuild a satellite network arises it will cost much less for much more capability.
The example I like to use is Anik E2, which up until recently was used for broadcasting C-band television signals versus the new "high-performance" NIMIQ satellite which broadcasts all digital signals. Both of these also broadcast radio and comm signals..

Re:To the 0wn3rz go the ComSats (1)

kill_9_1 (123711) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211329)

I expect the next 2600 quarterly to have a writeup along these lines...

Maybe Iridium should be put on eBay? (4)

CausticPuppy (82139) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211330)

Here we have 80+ satellites in orbit that nobody wants, and I still have to access the net at 56k.

The world is full of irony.

By the way, Heavens Above [heavens-above.com] is a great place to look if you want to know when and where iridium flashes will take place. I'm sure those will be missed...

Re:Call me extra ignorant... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1211331)

Why am I the last to know about these things??

Salvage 1 (1)

jonabbey (2498) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211332)

Yeah, it was the weirdest thing I had ever seen. Very much influenced by BattleStar Galactica, as I recall.. they were out at about the same time.

The internet is great, the internet is good, the internet has a Salvage 1 Fan Page [geocities.com] .

Re:Some are going to be pissed... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1211333)

Of course it's all big companies...your average welfare mother will make do with a simple cellular phone, I don't think anyone that got stung with an Iridium purchase is going to really hurt from having to find another satellite phone provider. These people:
a) had enough money to buy one in the first place
b) had the need to be able to make a phone call from anywhere in the world, at any time.
c) frequently traveled around the world.

--
no pity for the majority

Re:One word (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1211334)

ah, the great idiocy and assumption that is Slashdot.

they will deorbit the satellite, moron.

Sad (1)

drivers (45076) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211335)

It's kind of like the pony express I suppose.

The problem of course is the phones and airtime were too expensive, and they didn't work indoors.

I have a poster up in my house called "The Spirit of Iridium." Looks like that is all it is going to be... an idea.

Re:I Claim The Satellites (2)

Kris_J (10111) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211336)

I'm going to hit my favourite mobile store in the city and see if I can lay claim to the prop phones, just for fun...

Re:I Claim The Satellites (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1211337)

Too late! I have already patented the idea of using these satellites for any other purpose. If any of you sonsabitches want to use them, you have to PAY ME FIRST.

iridium (1)

Uart (29577) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211338)

if iridium doesn't get aquired, then they stated earlier that they are going to (after the 17th) start working on how to safely de-orbit their satellites. According to an article I read, too bad i don't remember where, or I would post a link there. Maybe C|net?

Re:Iridium Flash effect? (3)

Yardley (135408) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211339)

The Iridium Flash effect occurs when a great idea for a worldwide product flashes onto the scene, allowing people who want to have the best of everything spend more money. In a flash of bright light, the idea burns out leaving behind an armada of outrageously expensive technology orbiting the earth.

Seriously, though, check out Observing Iridium Flashes [assa.org.au] and Heavens Above [heavens-above.com] (as someone already mentioned).

According to this article [sailingsource.com] in Sailing Source, the last link: tells you where and when to look for IRIDIUM satellite "flashes" as the sun reflects light off the satellites passing overhead. You plug in your lat/long position and it will tell you where and when in the night or predawn sky to look to see an Iridium "flash."

Some people call them flares [tiac.net] apparently to differentiate from meteor flashes.

The reason satellites are made of highly reflective materials is so they reflect the sunlight and not gather heat, sort of like a car baking in the hot sun. I imagine there *are* some coating materials which would reduce the glare and imagine that so far, there has been little reason to use them.

But remember that the Iridium "flare" is the reflection from the solar panels, which cannot be covered so easily as with some kind of paint.

... [read page to get context] ...

That's an attractive but malicious thought, Lew! While we can think and talk of that amongst ourselves, I shudder to think of the child wanting to take his telescope into the back yard some night and Mom objects, saying that watching the sky is "evil" because she has no idea of the difference between a meteor flash and an Iridium flare!

Iridium Sat #7 on Ebay (1)

Duke of URL (10219) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211340)

[Humor]

Which one of us will be the first to put a prank EBay auction on one or all of the Iridium Satellites?

All that money burning up in the atmosphere....

[/humor]

Maybe they are owned by the share holders (1)

TheDeal (41885) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211341)

Dear or dear they should auction them off on ebay, i'm sure the russians could scrounge up some US Foriegn aid money to pay for them. And then disperse the money to the poor share holders of this doomed company

Re:I Claim The Satellites (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1211342)


I wonder how soon before someone puts them up for auction on eBay [ebay.com] ?

Re:lovely help (1)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211343)

> q: can motorola help me out at all in finding an alternative satellite service provider?
>
> a: motorola cares deeply about its customers. However, motorola feels it cannot provide you any more help than listing a couple of phone numbers at this time.

And if you're in a remote area like the Antarctic, and your only voice line out is an Iridium phone, Motorola recommends that you make that phone call quickly :-)

Re:Harm for Radio Astronomy Even Worse than Flash (1)

quux26 (27287) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211344)

What if every big company decides to put up a big network of satelites interfering with one frequency range, but agrees to be nice in certain locations at certain times? Not good for science!

Call me an optimist, but incentive for an observatory on the moon? Don't get me wrong, you're not incorrect.

My .02
Quux26

Re:Regarding Iridium (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1211345)

I seriously doubt the constellation will be of much use for anything other than what it was designed for, since the satellites were built for cheap and Iridium would have liked to capitalize on any alternative use.

If they were so cheap, why was the service so expensive? It would seem that if they lowered the cost of ownership, they could have built up a much larger user base. Instead it appears they wanted to provide a service to the rich and milk them in the process.


yeah, right, tell the world . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1211346)


I saw someone who looked like McCain at Motorola in Phoenix just today!

no you didn't. STFU, okay? now. you didn't see anything, anywhere. nothing. period. in fact, you weren't in phoenix. trust me, you weren't. got it?

they wheeled it out on a fork lift.

i can categorically and absolutely deny any truth whatsoever to this report. it did not happen. period. got it? senator mccain was not at the motorola facility in phoenix. there is no truth to reports which suggest the contrary. those are unsubstantiated rumors, which are not only libelous but in fact very close to treason, as sen. mccain is a high government official and you are making some very serious allegations here -- allegations which are, as i've said, absolutely unfounded.

What could be going on?

i think we've discussed this enough.

Re:Iridium Flash effect? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1211347)

'H to pay'?

Erm, do you mean 'Hell'?

We're not 5 year olds, y'know (despite what some of the trolls would indicate).

Re:What about the customers? (1)

matt_martin (159394) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211348)

Last I heard all sets will be re-purchased if the service is terminated. Though I heard they are commanding some hefty sums on E-bay as collectors items!

I have one word for this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1211349)

...Cidera. (Look at www.cidera.com) for those that don't know already. Nevertheless, I know some people who were at the "closing of the doors" and they said that the gear was "Gateway" gear--not sure if the same Gateway as the commercials with The Who in the background, I wasn't that involved.

Re:Iridium Flash effect? (2)

Score Whore (32328) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211350)

Actually I think Hemos get's a check everytime a piece of space junk wipes out a useful piece of space junk.

Re:Iridium Flash - lots of questions (3)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 14 years ago | (#1211351)

> Iridium Flashes can saturate several pixel and ruin an entire exposure, which might have taken hours to take.
> Astronomers have wised up, and try to schedule around Iridium Flashes and take shorter exposures and add them when possible. However, this means we waste our time
> that we should be doing scientific research correction for the obnoxousness of Iridium.

The alternative - deorbiting them by shooting them down en masse - is just as bad; space debris all over the place.

Which reminds me - it's been said that the dinosaurs died because they didn't have a space program. Truth is, they did have access to space, but the dinosaurs were damned if they did, damned if they didn't. Y'see, if it weren't for spending so much time avoiding iridium flashes, the dino-astronomers would have seen the damn asteroid coming with plenty of time to spare.

But by the time the dino-astronomers wised up to why their near-earth asteroid observations were so screwed up and shot down the iridium satellites in a fit of rage (when the Dean of Astronomy's a T. Rex, these things happen), incidentally creating the big layer of iridium-enriched dirt we observe at the 65-million-year mark in the fossil record, it was far too late to prevent the asteroid collision.

What's more, the rest of the dino-citizenry was so annoyed at them ("First they send tons of iridium into our backyard swimming pools, then they try to tell us there's gonna be a big hunk of rock falling down next year, but that that mess won't be their fault! Stupid astronomers! How dumb do they think we are?") that nobody heeded their warnings.

So the rock came, and the only survivors were the dino-astronomers themselves and a few mammals. After the catastrophe, the dino-astronomers gave up on astronomy and settled for evolving wings instead. It had started as an effort to lower the liftoff weight of their planned escape vehicles, but it turned out that flying was so much fun that they just gave up on the whole getting-to-orbit thing and settled into their new ecological niche, leaving dominion of the earth to the mammals.

I s'pose it worked out for the best, at least for us primates... but I can't help but wonder if the cockroaches are behind this whole iridium thing, just waiting for their turn to evolve...

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