Navy's Iridium phones get workout at North Pole

Navy's Iridium phones get workout at North Pole

By William Jackson

GCN Staff

APRIL 16—The Navy is loaning a pair of Iridium satellite telephones to a civilian expedition that will gauge Iridium performance under Arctic conditions.

The phones are leftovers-two of about 20 first-generation handsets from Motorola Inc. of Schaumburg, Ill., acquired by the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command for use with the original Iridium global satellite communications service that went bankrupt last year.

Military personnel will not get the first-generation 9500 model sets but instead more secure 9505 models under the Defense Information Systems Agency's two-year, unlimited airtime contract with the new Iridium Satellite LLC. SPAWAR itself is testing the 9505 models but was curious about how the older models would perform.

'There is enough commonality between the two models that we can gain some insight into limitations and capabilities of the system and equipment in Arctic and Antarctic conditions without having to go there ourselves,' said John Hurthere, SPAWAR's commercial satellite communications projects manager. The civilian team will collect data for SPAWAR about battery life, solar rechargers and the effects of cold.

Polar Trek 2001 is an all-woman ski expedition that trained in Russia in early April and was to begin the trek to the pole by mid-April. The expedition is receiving communications and guidance support from NASA.

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