Satellite Launch Deal

Russian firm to sign satellite launch deal with Indonesia

Kuala Lumpur (dpa) - A Russian satellite firm expects to get the go-ahead to use Indonesia's Biak Island as its launch pad next month, a senior executive said on Tuesday.

Air Launch Aerospace Corporation President Anatoly Karpov said that Russia and Indonesia had already finalized a government-to-government agreement on cooperation in exploration of outer space for business purposes and would "initial" the pact next month, paving the way for the use of Biak, in Papua province, as a satellite launch base.

"It is already approved. It will be initialled in January, but the signing will involve a big ceremony with the presidents of the two countries," Karpov said.

"As soon as the agreement is initialled then we've got the permission from our government to go into official partnership with the Indonesian company - PT Alai (Air Launch Aerospace Indonesai) - as a joint venture," Karpov told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa, speaking at the sidelines of the 2nd Russia-ASEAN Business Forum being held in Kuala Lumpur.

Plans to use Biak as a Russian satellite launch base have been on and off for years, partly due to the many changes in Indonesian governments.

"Biak is the best place for launching satellites on the equator," said Karpov. Satellite launches are risky business, and east of Blak is several thousand nautical miles of sea in case something goes wrong and the satellite plunges to earth.

The Russian Air Launch Aerospace Corp bills itself as a cheaper alternative for satellite launches, specializing in smaller satellites of up to 4 tons.

"The anticipated average launch rate of small satellites for the next 12 years may exceed 100 launches per year," Karpov told the Russian-ASEAN Business Forum, which drew more than 40 Russian companies and scores of Malaysian firms.

Efforts to boost Russian-ASEAN economic cooperation will be highlight at this year's annual ASEAN Summit, which for the first time will hold an ASEAN-Russian Summit on Tuesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Russian-ASEAN bilateral trade is currently negligible, amounting to 4 billion dollars in 2004.

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