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0 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 5 0.00 (0 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: John Bloom Narrator: Donald Corren Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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The incredible story of Iridium—the most complex satellite system ever built, the cell phone of the future, and one of the largest corporate bankruptcies in American history—and one man’s desperate race to save it.

In the early 1990s, Motorola, the legendary American technology company, developed a revolutionary satellite system called Iridium that promised to be its crowning achievement. Light years ahead of anything previously put into space, and built on technology developed for Ronald Reagan’s “Star Wars,” Iridium’s constellation of sixty-six satellites in polar orbit meant that no matter where you were on Earth, at least one satellite was always overhead, and you could call Tibet from Fiji without a delay and without your call ever touching a wire.

Iridium the satellite system was a mind-boggling technical accomplishment, surely the future of communication. The only problem was that Iridium the company was a commercial disaster. Only months after launching service, it was $11 billion in debt, burning through $100 million a month, and crippled by baroque rate plans and agreements that forced calls through Moscow, Beijing, Fucino, Italy, and elsewhere. Bankruptcy was inevitable—the largest to that point in American history. And when no real buyers seemed to materialize, it looked like Iridium would go down as just a “science experiment.”

That is, until Dan Colussy got a wild idea. Colussy, a former head of Pan-Am now retired and working on his golf game in Palm Beach, heard about Motorola’s plans to “de-orbit” the system and decided he would buy Iridium and somehow turn around one of the biggest blunders in the history of business.

In Eccentric Orbits, John Bloom masterfully traces the conception, development, and launching of Iridium and Colussy’s tireless efforts to stop it from being destroyed, from meetings with his motley investor group, to the Clinton White House, the Pentagon, and the hunt for customers in special ops, shipping, aviation, mining, search and rescue—anyone who would need a durable phone at the end of the Earth. Impeccably researched and wonderfully told, Eccentric Orbits is a rollicking, unforgettable tale of technological achievement, business failure, the military-industrial complex, and one of the greatest deals of all time.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “In this revealing account of Iridium’s troublesome history, Pulitzer-nominated journalist and author Bloom describes the successful launch of Motorola’s plan for sixty-six globally connected satellites, the venture’s disastrous commercial failure, and Colussy’s quixotic but effective scheme to secure funding for Iridium’s continuation from an assortment of investors in shipping, aviation, and the military. In his masterful history, Bloom skillfully spins a somewhat geeky topic into a riveting page-turner almost anyone can enjoy.”

    Booklist (starred review)

  • “Spellbinding…A tireless researcher, investigative journalist Bloom delivers a superlative history in which politics and cutthroat business tactics often overshadow the technical feats…A tour de force history of a star-crossed technological leap.”

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

  • “Interested in giant, head-scratching miscalculations by a great American company? The power of one man to rescue the world’s biggest deployment of low-earth satellites? A place where genius engineering meets a total lack of common sense? Then John Bloom’s book about Motorola’s multibillion-dollar debacle, Iridium, is for you. Eccentric Orbits is both a novelistic thriller and a cautionary tale, a page-turner about a reach for the heavens and a business primer on a near-fatal fall back to the earth.”

    Julian Guthrie, author of The Billionaire and the Mechanic

  • “John Bloom’s Eccentric Orbits, which tells the story of one of the most ambitious projects in the history of technology, is the most compelling book I have read in a long while. Bloom somehow coaxed the deepest thoughts and darkest secrets out of many satellite engineers, skeptical VCs, business royalty, inner-city tycoons, Italian marketers, Russian rocket launchers, Arabian princes, corporate CEOs, African leaders, Washington insiders, insurance giants, Pentagon brass, government lifers, politicians, and frustrated bankruptcy judges. This is a masterpiece of research and storytelling. If not for Bloom, one of the greatest stories of American ingenuity and bullheadedness would still lie scattered in thousands of documents and the memories of those who lived it.”

    Gary Kinder, author of Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea

  • “Build a better mousetrap, and the world will erect every possible obstacle to its success. That’s the sobering lesson of John Bloom’s book on the progress of a reliable, cheap, encrypted, worldwide mobile phone system to supermarket shelves. The exhilarating lesson is that it can be done if you have visionary geeks, hard-boiled veterans, retired capitalists, and the occasional eccentric, rebellious bureaucrat determined to do it. This is high scientific journalism, exciting business journalism, and a rattling good tale. It even includes Nazis.”

    John O’Sullivan, author of The President, the Pope, and the Prime Minister

  • Eccentric Orbits is a remarkable work. I had known about Iridium but not about its fascinating history. John Bloom’s writing style is attractive and the level of detail is astonishing. This was a page-turner for me!”

    Vint Cerf, chief internet evangelist, Google

  • “This is a monumental piece of nonfiction, not just for the breadth and depth of the research, but for its audacity: Bloom seeks to make technology and marketing and high finance dramatic and funny and instructive of the human condition—and succeeds. Until I read this, I had always assumed that my cell phone was created by something like spontaneous combustion; like one day, it just appeared between my right hand and my ear, as if it had always belonged there. Bloom has given all of us—all billions of us—the back story on it, and what a strange, tangled, convoluted, fairly hilarious one it is.”

    Jim Atkinson, contributing editor, Texas Monthly

  • “Impeccably researched, and in smooth, easy prose, John Bloom interweaves fascinating historical trivia about the space race, satellites, and global communications with detail-filled personality snapshots and cringingly revealing, often disturbingly humorous, insights about the many ways big business can shoot itself in the foot.”

    John Brewer, former president and editor-in-chief, New York Times Syndicate and News Service

  • An Amazon Best Book of the Month for June 2016
  • A 2016 Amazon Best Books of the Year So Far Selection for Business & Leadership
  • A 2016 Hudson Booksellers Best Book Award Winner for Best Business Interest Book
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