Los Angeles, CA, April 24, 1998 The Space Frontier Foundation, a national media and policy organization, disclosed today that the operators of AsiaSat 3, a privately owned communications satellite stranded in a useless orbit last December, have maneuvered the spacecraft into an orbit that could swing by the Moon. According to data made available by the U.S. Air Force and the NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center, the orbit of AsiaSat 3 has been increased over the last month to send the spacecraft in the direction of the Moon, likely making this the first commercial operation in the lunar vicinity. AsiaSat 3 is almost 10 times the size of the Lunar Prospector satellite that recently discovered ice at the lunar poles.
According to David Anderman, a member of the Board of Directors of the Space Frontier Foundation, "the recent movement of the AsiaSat 3 satellite is likely a last ditch effort to use the Moon's gravity to swing the satellite into its intended geosynchronous orbit over the equator. AsiaSat 3 could be a $240 million write off to its insurers, so there's a great incentive to use out-of-the-box ideas to save the mission."
He added, "If this lunar maneuver works, AsiaSat 3 will not only be the first private spacecraft to operate in the vicinity of the Moon, but it will prove a long-held theory that certain launches to geosynchronous orbit can save fuel by flying a slingshot maneuver around the Moon. With water ice having been discovered at the lunar poles, and the coming revolution in space transportation, commercial missions to the Moon could become commonplace in the next decade."