Great Advertising


Is that what the Iridium CEO said after one of his spacecraft collided with a Russian one? Oh, you bet he did:

The dramatic collision of one of Iridium Satellite LLC’s telecommunications satellites with an old Russian military satellite had one main business impact, according to Iridium’s CEO: "Great advertising."

At the same time, Matt Desch called for improved international efforts to monitor the positions of satellites and potentially dangerous space debris.

The collision "didn’t really have any financial impact" on privately held Iridium because it had a spare satellite ready to take over and there was little service disruption, he said.

But the highly reported incident did bring Iridium’s relatively low-profile service into the public orbit.

"I’d say that was some of the best advertising I could have gotten, though I wouldn’t do that again if I could help it," Desch said in an interview.

Desch said the event could generate business for Iridium, which has 66 satellites in orbit providing telecom services to governments and businesses like shipping companies that need communications in remote parts of the world.

One possible opportunity would be to lease out capacity in its next generation of satellites to hold cameras for organizations and governments to help keep better track of other satellites and ever-increasing amounts of space junk.

The Russian satellite involved in the collision with Iridium’s was no longer active.

"We clearly would like to see some better information about satellite positions," he said.

"(We hope) this incident will provide impetus for the international space community to find better ways to do that."

Desch said he expected talks to take place between scientists, governments and satellite companies in coming months about ways to improve and share information.

While the U.S. government does some monitoring, Desch said that tracking every satellite and every piece of debris in space would be a "very very complex, expensive task."

No single entity has that responsibility today, he noted.

"Our satellites are in an interesting orbit to be able to monitor the area around them," he said.

"Perhaps there’s opportunities for secondary payloads in future … to provide a better view of space," he said. "There have been discussions around that."

Desch said he expected Iridium to become part of a publicly traded company through its planned purchase of GHL Acquisition Corp, an affiliate of Greenhill & Co, in the second quarter.

Iridium LLC was initially backed by Motorola Inc but changed hands early 2001 after a group of investors, bought its assets after it filed for bankruptcy in December 2000.