Rescued Satellite Back in Space
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) _ An Indonesian communications satellite is back in space 5 1/2 years after shuttle astronauts pulled it from orbit and brought it back to Earth.
″I am very excited. I pray to God″ everything continues to go well, said Makarim Wibisono, press consulate for the Indonesian Embassy in Washington. She witnessed Friday’s launch.
An unmanned Delta 2 rocket blasted off on time at 6:28 p.m. with the $60 million satellite from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The satellite separated 26 minutes later and, as expected, settled into orbit about 115 miles away.
″It looks like we have a normal vehicle on our hand,″ said Skip Mackey, a NASA test director.
An on-board kick motor was to boost the 1,437-pound satellite into its final geosynchronous orbit 22,300 miles above the equator Sunday.
The Palapa B-2R satellite was one of two rescued from a uselessly low orbit by the shuttle Discovery in November 1984. The rescue came nine months after the satellites were launched by NASA aboard Challenger. Astronauts Joe Allen and Dale Gardner manually placed the satellites in Discovery’s payload bay.
The second satellite, originally built for Western Union, was returned to space on a Chinese ″Long March 3″ rocket on April 7. The successful sendoff marked China’s debut into the international satellite launching business.
The refurbished Indonesian satellite will join two other Palapa satellites already in orbit, electronically linking the 177 million people who live on the country’s 13,677 islands. It is expected to go into operation in six weeks.
The Indonesian satellites also will be used for internal communications services in the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Papua New Guinea.
Hughes Aircraft Co., which built the recovered Palapa, replaced its batteries, on-board thrusters and motors used to boost the satellite into its proper orbit. Damage during its nine months in space was ″amazingly benign,″ said Dave Braverman, a vice president for Hughes.
Friday’s launch cost $137.5 million, including $50 million for the McDonnell Douglas Commercial rocket and $27.5 million for an insurance premium covering loss of the satellite.
The satellite originally was scheduled for launch April 9. The launch was pushed back three days when the National Aeronautics and Space Administration moved up the date of Discovery’s launch with the Hubble Space Telescope.
The Palapa’s launch was delayed yet again - to Friday - when Discovery’s mission was scrubbed Tuesday. The space agency later said the Discovery mission would be delayed until April 25.
The Palapa B-2R is the fourth Palapa satellite to be launched by McDonnell Douglas. It is the Huntington Beach, Calif., company’s third commercial launch.