Iridium needs to launch new satellites?

A Chicago-area Daily Herald had an interesting article on Motorola and its ill-fated Iridium satellite venture in the 1990s. Motorola spent $5 billion building this mobile satellite network just to see it go bust in just a year after start of operations in 1998. Motorola has since been battling the financial consequences in the courts, while the new Iridium Satellite LLC enjoys increasing revenues ($200M in 2006?) and subscriber base (about 162,000) and plans to replace its aging fleet of 66 low-earth-orbiting (LEO) satellites by 2013.

Something wrong must be here. LEO satellites usually have about 5-7 years of lifetime. Iridium launched its satellites in the late 90s and they are now long overdue for replacement and could start falling off the sky any minute. Another issue could be the money needed to build and launch new satellites. With competition increasing, it may not bee easy for find another Motorola to invest and/or lend resources for such a cause. We’ll see…