Fri, 12 Aug 1994

Arianespace launches 66th rocket after 10-day delay

By Soeryo Winoto

KOUROU, French Guiana (JP): Europe's 66th Ariane space rocket finally blasted off into space safely on Wednesday after a 10-day delay due to technical difficulties.

It was the second launch since a failure in January, and the 66th flight from the European Space Agency space center in Kourou, located 40 kilometers northwest of Guiana's capital of Cayenne.

The Ariane 44LP rocket, carrying two telecommunications satellites, lifted off at 8 p.m. local time (2300 GMT).

The vehicle, equipped with four liquid strap-on boosters, had originally been scheduled for a July 30 launch.

Twenty minutes after lift-off the Brazilian satellite, Brasilsat-B1, was separated, five minutes before the Turkish one, Turksat 1-B, was released into space.

The 1.7 ton Brasilsat-B1 telecommunications satellite was built by Hughes Space and Communications for Embratel of Brazil, while the 1.8 ton Turksat 1-B was built by Aerospatiale for the Turkish Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications. The nominal lifetime of the Brazilian and Turkish satellites are 12 and 10 years, respectively.

The Brasilsat-B1 cost around US$140 million and the Turksat 1- B $315 million.

Remi Kocher, mission director of the Arianespace flight 66, said that the 10-day postponement was due to a pressure irregularity in one of the fuel tank pipes of the third stage rocket.

"We delayed the launch to permit a rigorous analysis of the incident under optimum conditions and to carry out the technical checks required," Kocher said.

Arianespace President Charles Bigot said the delay as well as January's failure, the sixth since the consortium commenced its program 15 years ago, will not hurt Arianespace's reputation.

"The January failure made us more mature and even more trusted, It made us more careful," Bigot said, referring to the failure which plunged Turkey's first satellite and a European telecommunications satellite into the Atlantic Ocean.


The success of Wednesday's launch also restored the confidence of the Indonesian government, which had chosen Arianespace for its Palapa-C1 telecommunications satellite.

Indonesian ambassador to France, Wirjono Sastrohandoyo, who was present for the launch, hailed Arianespace's reliability.

"However, we have the option to choose for our Palapa-C2,"he reminded.

Six foreign companies, including Arianespace, have submitted applications to the Indonesian government to launch the Palapa-C2 satellite, an event scheduled for 1996.

Arianespace will fly Palapa-C1 between August and September of next year.

Indonesia, the world's largest archipelagic country, relies heavily on satellites for its telecommunications links. All Indonesian satellites were made by Hughes Communication International of the United States. The Palapa C-1 and C-2 are to replace the B-generation satellites currently operating.

Arianespace officials, expressing confidence in their bid to launch the Palapa-C2 satellite, said that Indonesia has much to gain from using the European consortium's rocket.

The other five bidders in the tender are Krunichev-Lockheed, a consortium of Russian and U.S. companies, General Dynamics and McDonnell Douglas, and two firms from China and Japan.

Bigot told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday that technically the European company is leading. "We have proven our capability. We have launched five satellites within two months. This must be highlighted."

Eckard Weinrich, Mission Manager of Palapa-C1, had earlier said in Paris that Arianespace would offer Indonesia service at a reasonable and competitive price. He also said using the services of Arianespace would help strengthen relations between Jakarta and the European countries.