By Frank Sietzen, Jr.
Washington - May 13, 1999 - The Clinton administration has approved a two-satellite Iridium mobile satellite launch aboard the Chinese Long March launch vehicle, the White House announced May 10th.
The launch, from China's Taiyuan Launch Center, will carry a pair of replenishment satellites up to the Iridium constellation. The Great Wall Industry Corp. will use a Long March 2C/SD as the booster, a combination that has been repeatedly used in Iridium replacement launches.
The launch, set for June 7th, will mark 20 Iridium launches in 25 months. All previous launches have been successful.
The administration's action comes in the midst of a crackdown by the U.S. State Department in exports of U.S.-made satellites and satellite components to foreign buyers and launch providers, moves that have angered the U.S. commercial space industry.
The White House said that the Iridium launch would not effect either U.S. national security interests nor the other satellites awaiting export licenses. The Iridium approval concerns satellite rocket fuel and ordnance equipment that will be used to deploy the two spacecraft.
The dispenser system has flown aboard previous Iridium launches on the Long March 2C, the most recent being a twin satellite replenishment launch last December 19th.
Iridium's launch plan has included U.S. Delta II and Russian Proton launch vehicles in addition to the Chinese rocket. Of the total 20 launches through June's Chinese mission, 11 of the boosters purchased by Iridium have been Delta IIs.
All of the Deltas have been launched from the Air Force space center at Vandenberg Air Base, California. The most recent Delta II Iridium launch occurred Nov. 6th from Vandenberg. Additional Delta II Iridium launches are also manifested for the remainder of 1999.
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