Communications Satellite, Iridium

Display Status:

This object is not on display at the National Air and Space Museum. It is either on loan or in storage.

Collection Item Summary:

This satellite is the heart of a space-based communications system called Iridium. Conceived, designed, and built by Motorola, the Iridium system provides wireless, mobile communications through a network of 66 satellites in polar, low-Earth orbits. Inaugurated in November 1998, under the auspices of Iridium LLC, this complex space system allowed callers using hand-held mobile phones and pagers to communicate anywhere in the world--a first in the history of telephony.

As of late 2006, the system still is in operation. Designed primarily for commercial communications, the U.S. government has used Iridium extensively in the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

This artifact was the first prototype satellite Motorola built for Iridium, and it includes engineering and flight components. The company donated it to the Museum in 1998.