No one at Iridium L.L.C. or Motorola Inc. has explained the cause of two satellite failures last month, but the consortium maintains the problem is unrelated to the previous five satellite losses.

To date, Iridium has lost seven satellites of the 72 launched. According to Michelle Lyle, senior manager of corporate communications at Iridium, the venture had made contingencies for nine failures and the latest two will not affect the launch date.

Of the first five satellite failures, two satellites experienced problems with their momentum wheel, the company could not establish communication with another two and the fifth was damaged when it separated from its fairing.

To replace these inoperable units, Iridium will use the August launch dates it had reserved beforehand. The company plans to launch two satellites from a Long March rocket in China and another five from a Delta II. The two satellites from the Long March rocket will replace the two satellites that recently failed. The five being launched from the Delta II will replace the others.

Iridium spokesman Craig Bond said he believes the drop in Iridium Global Communications Ltd. stock has nothing to do with the recent failures, despite the fact that stock prices fell about $8 following their disclosure. The stock was trading at about $42 at press time.

“I personally think a lot of the slide was due to the fact that a lot of institutions bought a lot of stock when we first came out, they made their 100 percent return and then dumped it when the first piece of bad news close to launch came out,” said Bond.

“I think it was profit taking, and this was the excuse.”

Bond also said Iridium is being scrutinized because it has set a concrete launch date, which investors use as a gauge.

“Of anyone who has worked in the satellite industry, I don’t know of anyone that has ever given a date before,” Bond said. “Historically, satellite networks are at least six to 12 months late. We put a very strong line down for Sept. 23 … the first time we realize we can’t meet the deadline with quality service, we’ll delay it.” He said there has been no indication of any delay to date.

“We’re still on schedule and are still going to make it. I’m not at all pessimistic. I’m 100 percent certain we’re going to make Sept. 23.”

Bond said the company is moving forward in its efforts to secure product and service distribution agreements as well as global roaming partners. Thus far, the company has 250 contracts in 113 countries and is signing five to six new contracts and adding up to two new countries a week, he said. Many countries require contracts with several providers. For instance, Iridium signed 23 such contracts in Russia alone.

Sufficient agreements have been made in North America, South America, Europe and Eastern Europe and parts of southeast Asia, Bond said, while Iridium still is working on partnerships in Africa, the Middle East and other areas of Asia.


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