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Indonesia’s LAPAN Aims To Indigenously Launch One Ton Satellites By 2040

The Indonesian Lesser Sunda Islands seen from space. Image courtesy of NASA.

Indonesia’s space agency, Lembaga Penerbangan dan Antariksa Nasional (LAPAN), has announced that it intends to launch an indigenous space launch vehicle (SLV) by 2040 with the ability to insert a 1-ton satellite into Low Earth Orbit (LEO), according to SpaceTech Asia.

The announcement was made at a briefing in preparation for Indonesia’s Aerospace Summit, set to take place on 25-26 September 2018.

According to LAPAN, the agency is currently undergoing an evaluation of its activities from 2016-2020, and says it has a clear direction of what it wants to accomplish. It has already selected two locations – Biak Island in Papua New Guinea, and Morotai Island in North Maluku – as potential launch sites. Indonesia’s geographical position straddling the Earth’s Equator makes these potential sites ideal for satellite launches since they can benefit from a 2,400 kilometres per hour boost at launch provided by the Earth’s spin.

LAPAN’s space launch vehicle development programme will take a gradual and incremental approach to growing the SLV’s size, engines, and propulsion systems, and will be conducted in four phases, according to SpaceTech Asia:

The first phase, which it is currently undergoing now, aims to develop a launch vehicle capable of delivering a 50kg payload into an altitude of 300km. The launch vehicle for this phase will be a 3-stage, solid fuel rocket. Phase 1 is expected to be completed in 2019-2020.

Following that, LAPAN will begin its second phase, which will aim to add strap-on boosters to the vehicle, in order to increase the rocket’s thrust and payload capability. This will enable the vehicle to take 100kg to an altitude of 300km.

The programme’s third phase will develop a liquid propulsion engine, to be used in conjunction with its solid-fuel strap-on boosters. Phases 2 and 3 are expected to take 10 years, and be completed by 2029, with the provision to extend Phase 3 if necessary. By the end of Phase 3, LAPAN should have a launch vehicle capable of taking 100kg to a 600km LEO.

The final phase of LAPAN’s planned rocket development programme will begin in 2029, where the agency will work on the rocket’s exact specifications and orbital insertion capabilities. The targeted completion date of the vehicle is 2039, with its launch to take place at Indonesia’s new launch complex in 2040.

LAPAN currently operates a number of sounding rockets which it tests on a regular basis, to include the liquid-propellant sounding rocket Rukmini (RCX1H-1). These sounding rockets have been developed with the aim to use them as individual stages in the planned Indonesian SLV. LAPAN is also carrying out a satellite development programme, beginning with an indigenous microsatellite programme designed to scale into an operational Earth observation satellite by 2025.

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