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MEASAT-3a Satellite Succesfully Blasted From Baikonur Cosmodrome

From Mikhail Raj Abdullah

BAIKONUR (Kazakhstan), June 22 (Bernama) -- Malaysia's newest satellite, the MEASAT-3a satellite blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome exactly on schedule at 5.50 am Malaysian time here Monday.

Launched amid perfectly cool and windy conditions, the US$165 million communications satellite blasted off on its mission to enhance Measat Satellite Systems Sdn Bhd's satellite capacity significantly.

The company now has four satellites in orbit.

The time difference between Kazakhstan and Malaysia is two hours which means it was launched in Baikonur at 3.50 am.

MEASAT-3a was supposed to have been launched in August last year, but an overhead crane accident damaged it while it was being prepared for launch and had to be returned to Dulles in Washington for repair.

Information Communication and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim, who led a group of 50 people to witness the launch of Measat's fourth satellite, was elated saying it was yet another feather in the cap for Malaysia's broadcasting capabilities.

Some in the enthralled crowd taken in by the spectacular rocket power and explosive burn described it as a "rocket entering the heavens."

They all burst into spontaneous applause.

Rais said this was the first time he witnessed the satellite launch.

To be operational in July, MEASAT-3a will replace MEASAT-1 which is scheduled to complete its service in 2015.

The MEASAT-3a satellite is being lifted into orbit by a Zenit-3SLB Launch vehicle on its way until its final location at 91.5 degrees East Longitude.

The minister said he was proud over the successful launch of the satellite as it would help enhance Malaysia's position in the international satellite business as well as broadcasting.

It will also lay the groundwork for Malaysians themselves to design, create and manufacture their own satellite in the future and not depend on others or merely confine themselves to making components, he said.

He also described the successful launch as a "shot in the arm" for Malaysia's creative industry.

"This is another great achievement for MEASAT, and for the Malaysian space industry. With the launching of Malaysia's fourth geo-stationary communications satellite, we see even greater interest in space technology among Malaysians. We also hope that this launch will give Malaysia greater cutting edge and leadership in space technology and satellite communications," said Rais.

The launching of the 2,417 kg MEASAT-3a satellite here and witnessed by a group of Malaysians in the deserts of Kazakhstan a few kilometres away from the launch pad was telecast live over Awani, on Astro channel 501.

Among those who witnessed the launch were Measat's Chief Operating Officer, Paul Brown-Kenyon, Measat's General Counsel Farah Suhanah Ahmad Sarji and Telekom Malaysia Bhd (TM) group chief executive officer Datuk Zam Zamzairani Mohd Isa.

Brown-Kenyon said that the new satellite would be critical in supporting the continued growth of the company.

"We are proud to see the hard work of our engineering team, and those of Orbital Sciences, Intelsat and SeaLaunch, come to fruition with the successful launch of the satellite today."

"On completion of in-orbit testing, the satellite will provide a significant boost to our network capacity, allowing the continued expansion of our business in Malaysia, Asia Pacific and Africa," he added.

Chief Executive Officer of Astro TV, Rohana Rozhan said Astro is excited with the launch of the MEASAT-3a satellite as it aspires to stay ahead by providing its 2.7 million and growing customers with even more choice.

The new capacity from MEASAT-3a will allow Astro to innovate the products and services in terms of content and technology, said Rohana in a statement.

When deployed after the completion of in-orbit testing, expected end-July 2009, MEASAT-3a will expand capacity at MEASAT's key 91.5E orbital location by 50 percent, providing an additional 24 transponders to the 48 transponders provided by MEASAT-3.

The new satellite has been designed to support the continued growth of the company's Direct-to-Home (DTH) Broadcasting and Telecommunications services.

The launch of MEASAT-3a, manufactured by Orbital Sciences Corp of Dulles, U.S., was also a historical occasion for 14 top students from Malaysia, India, Indonesia, the Philippines and the United Kingdom.

They were selected by Measat to experience this once-in-a-lifetime chance witnessing the blast of MEASAT-3a, especially after being disappointed last year when the accident delayed the launch.

Among the students were five Malaysians who excelled in the PMR in 2007.

It was dream come true for Ahmad Ruiz Mohd Asri from Taman Tun Dr Ismail in Kuala Lumpur; Edmund Chen Min Lau from Kuching, Sarawak; Lina Na'ilah Abdul Talip from Kajang; Chandra Sekhar Kuppusamy from Johor Baharu, and Cliff Asher R. Ongil from Beaufort, Sabah.

-- BERNAMA

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