HUGHES GLOBAL SERVICES, INC.
HUGHES SPACE AND COMMUNICATIONS COMPANY
Communications and Customer Relations
P.O. Box 92919 (S10/S323)
Los Angeles, CA 90009
Media Relations (310) 364-6363
Investor Relations (310) 662-9688
LOS ANGELES, June 17, 1998 -- The HGS-1 communications satellite arrived in geosynchronous orbit over the Pacific Ocean today, successfully completing an historic mission that sent it around the moon twice to reposition it into a useful orbit.
HGS-1 was launched last Christmas Day. Because of a malfunctioning launch vehicle, it was left in an unusable, highly elliptical orbit. Insurers declared it a total loss for its original purposes, which was for communications and television services in Asia. Hughes Global Services, Inc., (HGS) obtained title in April to the fully functional satellite, an HS 601HP model built by Hughes Space and Communications Company (HSC).
Hughes orbital engineers devised a novel mission to salvage the satellite, using lunar gravity to improve the resulting orbit once the satellite returned to Earth. That flyby, in mid-May, was the first commercial mission to the moon. Encouraged by the precision of that mission, Hughes performed a second lunar rendezvous this month to further improve the orbit.
The second mission concluded today. At 11:29 a.m. PDT, Hughes satellite controllers fired the on-board motor for 12 minutes, which slowed the spacecraft enough to enter a circular orbit 22,300 miles (36,000 km) above the equator. HGS-1 will be "parked" in a dormant state over the Pacific until Hughes finds customers for it.
When HGS obtained title to the satellite, it agreed to try to find revenue-producing uses for the satellite and to share profits with the insurers. "This is a real opportunity for someone to kick-start or augment their business with an in-orbit satellite, at less cost and time than it would take to contract and build their own satellite," said Ronald V. Swanson, HGS president. Even though HGS' primary business is packaging satellite communications services for governmental entities, it is actively seeking interest in the entire satellite as well.
HGS-1 made its first swing around the moon May 13. On May 16, as the satellite approached Earth, controllers slowed it down by firing the on-board rocket motor. This put the satellite into a 15-day orbit around Earth with an apogee -- the farthest distance from Earth -- of about 303,000 miles (488,000 km). The moon is about 250,000 miles away (402,000 km).
On June 1, controllers nudged the satellite into position for a second lunar flyby. It passed the moon again on June 6, at a distance of nearly 21,300 miles (34,300 km) from the surface, which is about 5.5 times farther than the initial lunar encounter of 3,883 miles (6,200 km). A small firing of the rocket motor June 11 reoriented the satellite for its final orbit around Earth.
Last Sunday at 9:15 a.m. PDT, controllers fired the motor for 46 minutes, and again for two minutes at 10:50 a.m. These burns slowed HGS-1 into a 46-hour orbit ranging in altitude from 22,300 miles (36,000 km) to 51,000 miles (82,000 km). Tuesday, controllers performed a 28-minute burn at 7:29 a.m. PDT, putting it into a nearly circular 28-hour orbit. Today's burn captured it in a 24-hour, geosynchronous orbit, so that it will orbit Earth at the same speed that the planet rotates. It will stay at roughly the same spot above Earth, but will drift a few degrees north and south of the equator every day.
"The lunar recovery mission team did an outstanding job. Everything has gone just as predicted," Swanson said. "It really validates the viability of this technique for future missions."
Hughes Global Services is a subsidiary of Hughes Space and Communications Company (HSC), the world's leading manufacturer of geostationary commercial communications satellites. Scientists and engineers from both HGS and HSC are taking part in the mission. Both companies are units of Hughes Electronics Corporation. PanAmSat Corporation, of which Hughes Electronics is the majority owner, has been providing critical command and tracking support for the mission through its ground station in Fillmore, Calif.
The earnings of Hughes Electronics are used to calculate the earnings per share attributable to GMH (NYSE symbol) common stock.