Un satellite arabo presto intorno alla Luna?

Si, è proprio questa l’ipotesi che si sta ventilando per il recupero di un satellite di telecomunicazioni della famiglia Arabsat (il 4) che non ha raggiunto l’orbita di parcheggio predefinita a causa del malfunzionamento del 3° stadio di un Proton, lanciato da ILC negli scorsi giorni.
Ed il bello è che non sarebbe nemmeno il primo!
Leggete l’interessante articolo inoltrato su FPSPACE da Jim Oberg.

Experts study moon-rescue plan for off-course Arabsat-3

Alan Boyle’s COSMIC LOG
March 2, 2006 | 2:45 a.m. ET
Round-the-moon rescue? What can you do with a satellite in a useless orbit? That’s the question now facing the folks who built, launched and hoped to use the Arabsat 4A telecommunications satellite - and one of the potential answers could involve an unorthodox trip all the way around the moon to get the orbit back in sync.
The problem arose on Wednesday when the upper stage of a Russian Proton-M rocket malfunctioned, leaving Arabsat in an orbit too low for the job it was designed to do. It’s a big setback for the Russians, who launched the Proton from their Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan - and it’s a headache as well for the Saudi-based Arabsat consortium, the EADS Astrium company that built the satellite, and the insurers who have to make good on the loss.

It’s not clear whether Arabsat’s orbit can be raised to the right place as it circles the earth. NBC News space analyst James Oberg reports that satellite experts are considering an alternative trajectory that would slingshot the satellite around the moon and back. Believe it or not, that strategy has been used before (http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2006-01/nyao-nbr010506.php) to salvage a satellite gone awry.

On Christmas Day 1997, a similarly problematic Proton launch left the Asiasat 3 satellite in a similarly useless orbit, apparently a total loss. Hughes Global Services, the satellite’s manufacturer, bought Asiasat back from the insurers - then gave it a new lease on life by sending it on a “free return lunar flyby.”

After making a round-the-moon trip and going through another corrective maneuver, the satellite - renamed HGS-1 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HGS-1) - settled into a nice, circular orbit. Since then, the craft was acquired by PanAmSat, given yet another name (PAS 22), and moved into yet another telecommunications slot.

In an e-mail, Oberg says that the folks behind the Asiasat maneuver are now in touch with the parties considering Arabsat’s fate, and that all the parties involved may work out a rescue plan in the days ahead:

“A mission rescue via lunar swingby is under serious consideration, but issues of ownership remain to be settled. And even if the probe cannot be moved into an operational 24-hour orbit, it can certainly be sent out to the moon on an Arab space mission. … The Saudis would love it.”

Stay tuned for the next installment in Arabsat’s space saga. It’s worth noting that just such a round-the-moon trip is being offered as a $100 million-a-ticket ride for private space travelers.