THE SUCCESSFUL launch of the Asiasat 2 communications satellite aboard a Chinese Long March 2E booster from Xichang on 28 November included the "maiden flight" of the first nationally built EPKM perigee kick motor, says China.

The motor, used to raise the satellite's low-Earth orbit to geostationary-transfer orbit, was first flown on the maiden flight of the LM2E, in 1990, which carried a dummy geostationary satellite.

According to the Molniya Space Consultancy in London, which publishes the monthly Worldwide Satellite Launches table, both the EPKM and its attached satellite on the 1990 launch were "...not tracked and catalogued in orbit before entering the atmosphere". It is assumed that the EPKM may have misfired.

The motor is an alternative to the previously used US-built kick motors.

The Asiasat 2 launch was a relief to China, whose commercial-launcher business, had been threatened by previous LM2E failures. Asiasat paid a 27% premium on the $180 million launch insurance, about 10% over the current rate. China will need the successful launch of its next LM2E satellite, the US Echostar, later this month, to restore industry confidence further (Flight International, 22-28 November).

Source: Flight International