When Iridium Communications Inc. launched its first satellite network in 1998, cell phones were still just phones — you called people, people called you. Any phone that could be categorized as “smart” was just hitting the market. At the time, Iridium’s big idea was to provide satellite-based cell phone service to anyone anywhere in the world.
While this was — and still is — a great idea, what the company didn’t anticipate was the rate at which land-based cell phone towers would be erected. Its idea was a big miss; just nine months later the company was in bankruptcy.
Fast-forward to 2018 and the company has just successfully completed the launch of 10 more next-generation, low-earth-orbit satellites using Elon Musk’s SpaceX Falcon 9 reusable rockets. The 10 new Iridium Next satellites were added in December 2017, bringing the total number of satellites to 40. The company is more than halfway to its goal of 75 launched satellites in 2018.