RE: Iridium Flares to End?

Philip Chien (
Fri, 13 Aug 1999 01:09:07 -0400

Wayne T Hally <> said:

>That's the scary part for astronomers. If the Iridium Consortium just gives
>up on them, there will be random Mag 0 to -8 flares across the sky at any
>time. Yes, they are predictable to a certain extent by their orbits, but an
>uncontrolled satellite can produce a flare at any time, anywhere along it's
>orbit when the dark/sunlit geometry is favorable. It will be a nightmare
>for astrophotography, and especially meteor observing. I know some of you
>think I am whining, <snip>

Yes you _ARE_ whining Wayne.  When you brought up this issue came up last
month I sent an explaination which you've either chosen to ignore or
disregard.  Certainly you never responded or questioned any of the points I

Here's what I said previously (July 16th) -

I wouldn't worry about it too much.  When companies go out of business
completely there's usually an attempt to make an orderly shut down (you
don't want to leave the lights on and water running when the final person
leaves the building).

But more important in the case of Iridium is that the operational
satellites in orbit are an extremely valuable asset.  If Iridium does go
bankrupt then it's highly unlikely that the decision will be made just to
abandon the satellites in orbit.  In all likelyhood (some accountant type
correct me here) either Iridium will continue to operate in some form with
bankrupty protection or whatever investors or banks get the title to the
satellites will attempt to use them in some form or other.


If you're going to whine again - at least provide some basis for your
comments instead of just lashing out without any evidence to back your
claims.  Or feel free to just repeat your complaints and ignore what others
tell you - if that's the impression you want to give.

On the more serious issue of purposely retired satellites from what Iridium
has publicly said it plans to deorbit satellites at the end of their
operational lives (assuming of course there hasn't been a catrostrophic
failure which prevents the spacecraft from being controlled).  This isn't
an altruistic method, it's simply good business.  If you've got 66 very
valuable objects in orbit it makes sense to keep your backyard clean so you
don't accidentally step on a rake (how's that for mixed metaphors?)  How
quickly inactive satellites will decay and reenter, of course, is another

Philip Chien, KC4YER
Earth News
world (in)famous writer, science fiction fan, ham radio operator,
all-around nice guy, etc.