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U.S. Launches Satellite for Pacific Nations

March 21, 1987|Associated Press

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — A Delta rocket vaulted skyward Friday with a $43-million communications satellite intended to serve Indonesia and five other nations of the Southwest Pacific.

It was the seventh straight space launch success for the United States after three failures, including the explosion of the shuttle Challenger early in 1986.

Launch commentator Lisa Malone said the two-stage rocket had done its job when, 20 minutes after liftoff, it propelled the Palapa B2P satellite into a wide elliptical orbit ranging from about 115 miles to 23,000 miles above the globe.

Motor Will Be Fired

An onboard motor is scheduled to be fired tonight by ground command to place the satellite in stationary orbit 22,300 miles above Indonesia.

The payload is the first satellite transferred from the space shuttle cargo manifest to an unmanned rocket. It was assigned to the Delta after Indonesia's foreign minister made a special plea to President Reagan when Reagan visited the island nation last May.

Foreign Minister Mochtar Kusumaatmadja asked Reagan to find a way to launch the satellite before national elections scheduled next month. An existing Palapa satellite was not performing properly and officials feared it might fail before the elections.

The State Department persuaded the Strategic Defense Initiative Office to postpone the launch of one of its "Star Wars" payloads and give up its rocket for the Indonesians. That payload has been rescheduled for another Delta launch next November.

$50 Million Paid

Indonesia is paying the National Aeronautics and Space Administration $50 million for launching the satellite. Because the space shuttle and other rockets have had problems, satellite insurance rates have soared, and the government of Indonesia paid a premium of $19.3 million to insure the launch.

The Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Papua New Guinea will lease circuits on the satellite.

Sukarno Abdulrachman, Indonesia's director general of post and telecommunications, said the satellite is vital in linking the 165 million Indonesians in the 3,100-mile-long archipelago.

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