Global satellite mobile communication system operator Iridium was declared bankrupt on 17 March, making it the biggest business failure in spaceflight history. Commercial service ceased on 18 March following the Motorola-led company's failure to secure a buyer ahead of a US bankruptcy court deadline.

Iridium, which had debts of $4.4 billion, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last August after failing to attract sufficient users. It is believed that $7 billion had been invested in the project.

Iridium was guilty of over-ambitious projections and saw its market eroded by the expanding terrestrial cellular network. Pricy handsets, costing up to $3,000, and call costs of $7 a minute could not compete with smaller, cheaper terrestrial options.

Its future was sealed this month when Craig McCaw's Eagle River group decided against more investment, instead focusing on data service developments with Teledesic and ICO Global Communications.

Source: Flight International