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EU: Motorola to destroy Iridium satellites

Motorola, the main founder of the Iridium satellite-phone system, said on 23 August that it was to begin destroying the 66 satellite in orbit around the earth. The company estimated that it would take eight to nine months to destroy the satellite by guiding them back to the Earth and letting them burn up in the atmosphere. The cost for the operation is estimated to be $50 million (International Herald Tribune, 24.8.00).

This follows the failure of the Iridium company to find a buyers for its satellite-based system after if filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in August 1999. Iridium tried to sell its assets but a potential buyer backed out in July after concluding the project was not capable of making money. The failure of the Iridium system was due to its out-dated technology and bulky and expensive handsets considered to be unreliable.

Iridium was the first of the satellite-telecommunications companies to set up a ground station in the European Union based in Rome, Italy. A key section on interception in the EU's Convention on Mutual Assistance in criminal matters - adopted by the Justice and Home Affairs Council on 29 May - was based on the "convenient option" of Iridium's offer to re-route phone-calls and e-mails to be intercepted without the need for a warrant. For Iridium and the EU-FBI plan for telecommunications surveillance, Statewatch bulletin, vol 8 nos 5 and 6, vol 9 no 2 and vol 10 no 2 and on this site:  EU-FBI