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Private Co. May Send Craft to Moon

April 30, 1998

NEW YORK (AP) _ In order to bring a broken satellite back to Earth, its creators are sending it to the moon.

Satellite manufacturer Hughes Electronics Corp. said it would try to fix the orbit of an unusable satellite by sending it around the moon to use its gravity to shoot it back toward Earth.

The mission, announced Wednesday, would be the first time a private company had sent a spacecraft to the moon, The New York Times reported today.

The satellite, originally called Asiasat 3, was launched in December from Kazakhstan to provide television and telephone service in Asia. But the Russian-built Proton launching rocket malfunctioned, leaving the satellite in an orbit too low and too tilted relative to the equator to be useful.

The satellite was declared a total loss and its owner, Asia Satellite Telecommunications Company Ltd. of Hong Kong, collected $200 million in insurance.

But engineers at Hughes, which built the satellite, said its onboard rocket motor could be used to send it to the moon. The moon’s gravity would then be used to slingshot the satellite into an orbit around the Earth where it could be used, though not for its original purpose.

``This is really the not-so-little spacecraft that could,″ said Mark Skidmore, the mission project manager at Hughes.

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