Russian Cosmonauts can now phone home if they get lost, thanks to a deal between Iridium Satellite Communications (Hall 3, Stand G14) and the Russian Space Flight Operations Company.

The cosmonauts are to be provided with Iridium's satellite phones for use in emergencies, such as off-track landings. Just one month ago a Soyuz capsule carrying two Americans and a Russian back from the International Space Station (ISS) landed at least 250 miles (400km) from its designated target site in remote Kazakhstan.

Rescue teams, using 15 aircraft and 50 vehicles, scoured the desert before finally spotting the capsule two hours later after it had made an uncontrolled re-entry.


The Iridium phones, which provide global coverage, would have enabled the cosmonauts to just dial up and let mission controllers know where they were.

The $1,500 portable phones will be carried on Russian launch vehicles, search and rescue helicopters and emergency re-entry spacecraft. They will also be stored on the ISS.

The deal is the latest win in what is fast-becoming a rags-to-riches story for Iridium, which had entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy in spring 2000. The company crashed so dramatically first time around that it decided to let its satellites fall from orbit and burn up in the atmosphere. One bookmaker even offered odds of 1 in 249 that someone would be hit.

But as Paul Rodriguez, Iridium's Marketing Communications Manager, explained, the current owners now have the business back on its feet.


"We bought the company from the courts for just $25 million but received more than $5 billion in assets, including the fleet of 66 satellites. We now have more than 50,000 Iridium users worldwide, paying $2.50 a minute for the global service," Rodriguez said.

To put the deal into perspective, it would be like buying a brand new Airbus A340 for the price of a house.

During the recent Iraq war thousands of US soldiers and international media correspondents made calls on their Iridium phones from the Iraqi desert, where other cellphones won't function.

"We're marching on our competitors and this latest deal just goes to show how good our service is," said Rodriguez.

Source: Flight Daily News