- July 30, 2008, 7:19 AM
It’s a success story borne of utter failure. Iridium, after the bankruptcy of the original company (which meant a write-off by parent Motorola of the $5 billion it cost to field a 66-satellite low-earth-orbit constellation), said it expects to post a small profit this year on the strength of its commercial services. The revitalized Iridium company last month announced new contracts from the FAA, Drug Enforcement Administration, Department of Agriculture, the Forest Service and Department of the Interior. The FAA plans to install Iridium satphones in 33 aircraft, while the State Department is buying 80 SkyConnect satphones from Icarus Instruments for drug-interdiction operations in South America. The constellation is now managed by Boeing, and the launch of seven remaining satellites last year means there are now 14 in-orbit spares. This has the potential of extending the constellation’s life to 2014, longer than experts calculated and plenty of time for future expansion of Iridium or for a low-cost competitor to take its place.