Risks Soar, The Rockets Don't

The payoff in satellites keeps receding

Commercial satellites were supposed to be the next big bonanza in global communications--the spark for an era of whizzy new services like phone calls from the middle of the desert or Internet access from the top of Mt. Everest. Sure, the projects would be expensive: $140 billion worth of the silver birds were set to be launched in the next 10 years at a cost of $70 billion in rockets and ground services, according to the International Space Business Council. But once in space, the satellites could generate more than $150 billion a year from telephony, high-speed Internet access, and satellite images by 2008.

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