BOOKS

Eccentric Orbits

John Bloom

RRP: £16.99

14 June 2016

Published by Grove Press

ISBN: 9781611855357

RRP: £9.99

14 June 2016

Published by Grove Press

ISBN: 9781611859560

In the early 1990s, Motorola, the legendary American company, made a huge gamble on a revolutionary satellite telephone system called Iridium. Light-years ahead of anything previously put into space, and built on technology developed for Ronald Reagan’s ‘Star Wars,’ Iridium’s constellation of sixty-six satellites in six evenly spaced orbital planes meant that at least one satellite was always overhead.

Iridium was a mind-boggling technical accomplishment, surely the future of communication. The only problem was that Iridium was also a commercial disaster. Only months after launching service, it was $11 billion in debt, burning through $100 million a month and bringing in almost no revenue. Bankruptcy was inevitable – the largest to that point in American history. It looked like Iridium would go down as just a ‘science experiment.’

That is, until Dan Colussy got a wild idea. Colussy, a former CEO of Pan Am, heard about Motorola’s plans to ‘de-orbit’ the system and decided he would buy Iridium and somehow turn around one of the biggest blunders in the history of business.

Eccentric Orbits masterfully traces the birth of Iridium and Colussy’s tireless efforts to stop it from being destroyed, from meetings with his motley investor group, to the Clinton White House, to the Pentagon, to the hunt for customers in special ops, shipping, aviation, mining, search and rescue. Impeccably researched and wonderfully told, Eccentric Orbits is a rollicking, unforgettable tale of technological achievement, business failure, the military-industrial complex and one of the greatest deals of all time.