"Hughes scientists and engineers weren't ready to give up on the fully
functional satellite, however. "
Well, it's no Apollo 13, but this a great drama and a cool story of geeks
(hopefully) saving the day.
LOS ANGELES, May 13, 1998 -- The HGS-1 spacecraft became the first
commercial communications satellite to orbit the
moon, passing behind it at noon PDT today to grab a boost from lunar
gravity and hurtle back toward Earth.
Engineers at the Hughes Mission Control Center in El Segundo, Calif., will
begin braking maneuvers Saturday to guide the
arriving spacecraft into orbit around the equator.
HGS-1 is a high-power satellite built by Hughes Space and Communications
Company of Los Angeles, and owned by its
subsidiary, Hughes Global Services, Inc. (HGS). It was designed to provide
television and other telecommunications services
for Asia and neighboring regions.
During launch last Christmas Day, however, the rocket that was carrying it
malfunctioned, leaving the satellite in an unusable,
highly inclined, elliptical orbit. The original owner of the spacecraft
filed an insurance claim, and the insurers declared the mission
a total loss for its original purposes.
Hughes scientists and engineers weren't ready to give up on the fully
functional satellite, however. They devised a salvage
mission using the moon's gravity to reposition the satellite into a usable
circular orbit 22,300 miles above the equator, called
geosynchronous orbit. It is the first known lunar mission involving a
communications satellite and the first lunar mission financed
by a non-governmental entity. If Hughes can put the HS 601HP model
satellite into a useful revenue-generating orbit, it has
agreed to share profits with the insurers.
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