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20-Mar-00 | Iridium declares bankruptcy

Iridium is kaput. The beleaguered company, in the throes of reorganisation following a declaration of bankruptcy in August 1999, has been unable to secure financing to remain afloat. Customer service was terminated at 23:59EST on 17 March, and the process of deorbiting a total of 88 satellites will begin soon.

Eleven Delta II vehicles launched the majority of Iridium’s satellites over an 18-month period. The demise of Iridium has made industry analysts nervous about the futures of other satellite telephony companies such as Globalstar, which just completed its primary constellation (on their seventh Delta flight), and ICO, which despite its own bankruptcy reorg is beginning to build its constellation. (The first ICO spacecraft was lost in a Sea Launch/Zenit vehicle failure on 12 March. As many as five satellites are intended to launch on Delta III vehicles in the next year.)

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