Originally created 05/14/98

Satellite rounds moon in rescue effort



LOS ANGELES -- A communications satellite swung around the moon Wednesday in a slingshot maneuver to salvage it from a useless orbit.

The device drew close to the moon and looped around the backside, said Diana Ball, a spokeswoman for manufacturer Hughes Space and Communications Co.

The satellite will then speed up to about 9,500 mph, then brake to nudge it into a circular orbit around Earth, Ball said. The process should be completed by the end of the month.

"Everything has worked out wonderfully. We couldn't be more pleased at this point," Ball said.

The satellite was intended to provide television and other telecommunications services for Asia and neighboring regions. But during launch from Kazakhstan on Christmas Day, the fourth stage of the Russian Proton rocket mistakenly stopped firing, leaving the satellite stranded in a useless orbit.

Hughes got permission from a consortium of 27 insurers to take ownership of HGS-1 and engineers worked up a $1 million plan to save the satellite by zooming it around the moon and bringing it back.

In a dozen maneuvers, the satellite's onboard rocket fired to repeatedly raise its orbit in a steadily elongating loop. A final burn on May 7 kicked it on its way to the moon.