DOD throws Iridium an unexpected lifeline

DOD throws Iridium an unexpected lifeline

By Susan M. Menke

GCN Staff

DEC. 7—The Defense Department yesterday awarded Iridium Satellite LLC of Arnold, Md., a $72 million, 24-month contract for unlimited satellite communications airtime for 20,000 government users. Optional extensions through 2007 could bring the cumulative contract value to $252 million.

Iridium's constellation of low-orbiting satellites earlier had been expected to spiral down and burn up in the Earth's atmosphere because no buyer could be found for the bankrupt company [ www.gcn.com/vol1_no1/daily-updates/2772-1.html]. Now Boeing Co. will operate the satellite service at what DOD described as a bulk rate. The department had already invested in 800 Iridium handsets that cost as much as $3,000 each.

DOD's announcement said Iridium early next year will offer classified communications capability for users who are already registered as well as new users from other federal agencies and certain allied governments.

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