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Delta 3 looking for satellite

As reported on www.space.com  ...... wish we had an AMSAT satellite on the
shelf (or in storage) to provision for a ride !

G. Beat
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- With no firm decision yet as to when to fly its next
satellite, a London-based communications company this week has forced Boeing
to scrub its tentative plans to launch a Delta 3 rocket from Cape Canaveral
Air Force Station on May 31.

Boeing had booked that date on the Eastern Range in anticipation of ICO
Global Communications' needs, but ICO's plans remain unclear thanks to the
loss of their first satellite on a different rocket in March and bankruptcy
proceedings the company has faced since August.

As a result, Boeing managers are looking for a new customer to ride the
troubled booster, which has yet to prove itself following catastrophic
failures during its first two missions in August 1998 and May 1999.

"We're negotiating with another customer to fly on the Delta 3 and we hope
to know something within a week or so," Boeing spokeswoman Christine Nelson
said Friday. "If that goes through we'll proceed as quickly as possible."

All of the major components required to assemble the rocket on its launch
pad are here at Cape Canaveral and could be configured to fly a wide variety
of potential payloads with little delay, Nelson said.

Boeing managers might also consider flying the Delta 3 rocket without a
paying customer as a way to demonstrate to the aerospace industry that the
launch vehicle is working fine and ready to support future customers.

"Right now we're maintaining all of our options," Nelson said.

Boeing has 18 firm contracts for satellite-delivery missions using the Delta
3, but future business worth hundreds of millions of additional dollars
could be riding on the success or failure of the next try at sending a Delta
3 into orbit.

The first attempt in 1998 failed when a computer program glitch forced the
rocket to tumble out of control and explode shortly after launch. The second
attempt nearly a year later ended in disappointment when the rocket's upper
stage engine built by Pratt & Whitney of West Palm Beach, Florida failed.

Officials believe all of the problems are fixed and that the Delta 3 is
ready for its return to flight. Results of a final top-level review of the
1999 engine failure are expected by month's end.

That news may or may not affect ICO's plans, which essentially are on hold
while the company recovers from the loss of their first satellite during the
Sea Launch mission that failed in March.

"We have not said anything yet about our launch schedule going forward,"
said ICO spokesman Joe Tedino. "The schedule is not yet determined."

The company is one of several competing to provide worldwide cellular
telephone service using satellites in Earth orbit to relay the signal to
ground stations.

Complicating the picture is the fact that ICO is also one of two such
companies that filed for Chapter 11 protection last August.

According to an ICO news release, the company is scheduled to participate in
a court hearing on May 3 that could lead to ICO emerging from its
reorganization effort by the middle of the month. A more firm schedule for
launching their satellites is likely to follow that event.

Meanwhile, the next launch from Cape Canaveral currently is targeted for
April 21 at 11:05 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (April 22, 03:05 GMT). An Air
Force Delta 2 rocket is to carry a Global Positioning System satellite into
Earth orbit.

Via the amsat-bb mailing list at AMSAT.ORG courtesy of AMSAT-NA.
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