FW: Iridium Flares to End?

Wayne T Hally (meteors@eclipse.net)
Wed, 18 Aug 1999 05:10:03 -0400

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From: 	Wayne T Hally[SMTP:meteors@eclipse.net]
Sent: 	Wednesday, August 18, 1999 3:00 AM
To: 	'Philip Chien'
Subject: 	RE: Iridium Flares to End?



two points here -

My complaint to Wayne was not so much that he disagreed with my assessment
- but that he ignored it completely because it contradicted his conjecture
that the sky's falling. (to mix a metaphor)

Actually, Philip, I did not ignore it, but rather was unable to put the 
time in for a well thought out, coherent response, due to pressing duties 
relating to the upcoming (at that time) Perseids.

My scenario is hardly 'just' a reasonable conjecture.  No it isn't
evidence, no I couldn't prove it a court of law, and no there's no way to
'prove' that that's what's going to happen if - hypothetically the decision
is made to not use the Iridium satellites for any purpose in the future.

But I ask you -- is it really plausible to believe, as Wayne has claimed,
that when Iridium goes out of business that they're just going to leave the
satellites in orbit and forget about them?

Any more so than any other
business shutting down a plant and leaving the water running and lights on
when the last person leaves (a fairly good analogy, but with the plant if
somebody was to leave the utilities on somebody else could shut them off.
A tad more difficult with satellites in orbit).

The most likely scenario, as outlined by several folks, is whoever
eventually owns the Iridium constellation (the investors, the banks who
loaned the money to Iridium, etc.) will get the ownership of the satellites
and continue to operate them with a restructured company.

What you say here is probably quite correct...they are too valuable an 
asset to abandon at this time...this still does not solve the end of 
lifetime problem.

The other possible plausible scenario is if the economics prove to be
unviable then the satellites will be deactivated and deorbited.

That is where I still have to wonder. The Iridiums are in a very high 
orbit. Do they actually have the capability to be deorbited? Will they in 
10 years? IT would require considerable amounts of fuel. I assume holding 
their alignment is done by some kind of reaction wheel so that requires 
none,  and I know they start with sufficient fuel to move from the parking 
orbit to an active orbit, but how much will remain after their active life. 
(This is more of a concern when the fuel is used up..any speculation on 
what the active life is planned for the Iridiums)

But I stand by my statement that the highly implausible scenario is the
decision will be made to just abandon the satellites in orbit without
bothering to minimize any potential for future damage - including light
pollution.

You have more faith in the responsibility of the business world than I do, 
but I sincerely hope you are right.

Wayne, infamous Chicken Little :-)