Missing Telkom Satellite Prompts Russia Space Record Doubts
Prior to the disappearance of the Telkom-3 satellite just before midnight on Monday, Russia had failed three times in attempts to launch satellites in less than two years.
Russia lost three navigation satellites in December 2010, then a military satellite in February 2011 and a telecommunications satellite in August of that year. With such a dismal record, some here have wondered why state-run Telekomunikasi Indonesia trusted Russian satellite company Reshetnev to launch its $200 million satellite.
State Enterprises Minister Dahlan Iskan said on Wednesday that he had summoned the board of directors of Telekomunikasi Indonesia to brief him on its Telkom-3 satellite, which went missing as it was launched into orbit using a Proton-M rocket by Reshetnev from the Baikonur launch site in Kazakhstan.
“I have already received a report concerning the missing Telkom-3 satellite, but this is their obligation. I can also just call the board of directors, but I want to know the real information,” Dahlan said according to state news agency Antara.
Speaking while attending a meeting at state oil and gas company Pertamina, Dahlan said that since he was no expert in satellites, he wanted to know the chronology from the project’s inception.
The minister also said that Telkom should explain why it picked Russia over France, which successfully launched its Telkom-2 satellite.
“I will check with Telkom. I will call them as I want to know also why they chose Russia,” he said.
The European Space Agency’s Ariane 5 rocket, used for launches from the Cosmodrome in French Guiana, has not experienced a launch failure since 2003.
Arguments have been made that choosing Russia was a cost-saving measure. But the $200 million the company paid was not that low, according to GlobalCom Satellite Communication. It is estimated that a single satellite launch can range in cost from a low of about $50 million to a high of about $400 million.
On the news that Russian President Vladimir Putin called President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono about the missing satellite, Dahlan said he could understand Putin’s move.
“If I was on the Russian side, I would do the same. It’s about trust in Russian technology. For me, this is a heavy blow for Russia,” he said.
Russia launches about 40 percent of the world’s spacecraft, which mainly involves transporting satellites and equipment for other countries.
However, Dahlan also said that the failure of the Telkom-3 to reach orbit would not disturb or affect the services and performance of Telkom.
“There is no influence as beside the fact that it is fully covered by insurance, Telkom currently still has satellites in orbit with still quite a long operating time left,” he said.
The satellite with its 42 transponders, he said, was also scheduled to be mostly used for the Telkom paid-television services.
While Telkom can recover most of the money it spent on the lost satellite, another state-owned company — insurance firm Asuransi Jasa Indonesia (Jasindo) — could have to pay out up to Rp 1.7 trillion ($180 million).
Budi Tjahjono, Jasindo’s president director, acknowledged the high cost of the insurance claim for the satellite. However, the company has joined together with 37 other companies to cover the losses and determine how much to pay.
“We are still waiting for an official statement from Russia on the fate of the satellite,” he said.
The Telkom-3 satellite was built for Indonesia by Reshetnev. It was expected to provide telecommunications services for the next 15 years.
The Telkom-3 Satellite was “designated not only for commercial purposes … but also for government needs, such as defense and security and for the support of operations of state-owned firms as well,” Telkom president Rinaldi Firmansyah told space news website NASASpaceFlight.com.
Additional reporting by Antara & Investor Daily