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  sci-tech > space > story pagecorner  

Delta launch helps Globalstar system hit its mark

delta launch
A Boeing Delta 2 rocket lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Sunday. It later placed four Globalstar wireless telephone satellites into orbit.   

July 26, 1999
Web posted at: 12:39 p.m. EDT (1639 GMT)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (CNN) - A successful Delta II rocket launch has pushed the total number of Globalstar satellites now orbiting Earth to 32 - the magic number of "birds" needed to deliver the emerging global telephone system.

The 3:46 a.m. launch on Sunday from Cape Canaveral Air Station in Florida was a milestone in the history of the global telephone and paging company as it needed to get at least 32 satellites into space for its late September service start.

"We feel very good about it. It is another successful launch," said Globalstar Chairman Bernard Schwartz. "The birds are acting very, very well which gives us a very good feeling about completing a total complement of satellites in the air."

Globalstar plans monthly launches through December to complete its plan for a constellation of 48 satellites orbiting 1,414 km (764 nautical miles) above Earth. The final satellites will fill in coverage gaps over the equator and ensure uninterrupted service for most of the globe.

Four more Globalstar satellites are set for an August 14 lift-off on a Delta II from Cape Canaveral. Some of the subsequent launches will be aboard Russian Soyuz rockets from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Satellite fleet going up quickly

The pace of Globalstar's arrival in space has been impressive. If all goes well, the August launch could put the final four of 16 Globalstar satellites into orbit within a 70-day period by Boeing Delta rockets.

"The past six weeks have been very successful for Boeing and for our customers Space Systems/Loral and Globalstar," said Darryl Van Dorn, Boeing director of NASA and commercial Delta programs.

Globalstar customers will be able to place and receive calls from most places on the planet using a handheld cellular telephone. Motorola's Iridium satellite telephone service is Globalstar's primary competition, along with ICO Global Communications, set to launch its first satellite later this summer. The Iridium global telephone service was the pioneer in the field, becoming available in November 1998.

Schwartz said it was a relief to have the 32-satellite baseline in place for Globalstar as satellite launches always carry some risk.

"Ten percent of all satellite launches fail so that every time we succeed with one it is a very big plus for us," he said.

"However, we have organized Globalstar to support a launch a month this year," he said, "and this is another validation that the team and resources accumulated to track our satellites from the ground is a very, efficient resourceful team."

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