The Satellite Blasts Off

Hundreds of launches in the next few years will open a new Klondike for the few that prevail

It was barely 9 a.m. on Jan. 10, but Edward F. Staiano's nerves were already jangling. One month earlier, Staiano had left a top post at Motorola Inc. to head its Iridium venture, a wildly ambitious $5 billion satellite phone service project. Now, for the second morning in a row, Staiano sat in a Washington (D.C.) office, gazing intently at a live video feed from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base, roughly 2,400 miles away. Twice in two previous days, the launch of a Delta II rocket that would carry the first three of Iridium's 66 "birds" into space had been scrubbed.

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