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Commercial space launchings scheduled.

Commercial space launchings scheduled

The first schedule of planned satellite flights that private space launching companies will orbit, released last week, is being hailed in some quarters as a new phase in the U.S. space program. "Suddenly," says policy analyst Larry Martinez with the Department of Transportation (DOT), "it's 1973 -- the year before two guys in a garage in Sunnyvale, Calif., came up with the Apple computer."

Apple has not taken up launching satellites. Martinez refers rather to what the sees as a potential techno-business revolution, as significant in a way as the one that followed the introduction of the personal computer. Historically, NASA has handled all commercial space launches in the United States. But in a major policy change, DOT is now responsible for licensing all launches of satellites whose owners -- whether federal agencies, private firms of foreign governments -- hire commercial companies to orbit their craft with expendable rockets fired from U.S. sites.

The newly announced commercial launch schedule, or manifest, reflects President Reagan's January national space policy statement, which calls both for eliminating government launch competition with the private sector and for avoiding unnecessary use of the space shuttle's human crews for launchings.

The first version of the manifest, which so far extends through May of 1992, represents 18 licenses for satellite launchings and two for sounding rockets. Topping the list is India's INSAT 1-D communications-and-meteorology satellite, to be orbited next March by McDonnell Douglas atop one of its Delta rockets.

The manifest lists nine U.S. launchings, among which are the German ROSAT X-ray telescope and NASA's Extreme Ultraviolet Explorer satellite (both formerly planned as launches by the shuttle), as well as the Combined Release and Radiation Effects Satellite for NASA and the Defense Department. Also included are three GOES weather-watchers for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a Navy communications satellite and the two sounding rockets, to carry microgravity experiments. The other entries, through also being launched by U.S. companies, are all communications satellites for foreign or international customers -- Britain, Indonesia, Japan, India and consortia such as INTELSAT.
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Author:Eberhart, Jonathan
Publication:Science News
Date:Jul 9, 1988
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