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Indonesian Space Port

Written By Redaksi on Thursday, November 5, 2009 | 7:26 PM


Indonesian Space Port : An Obsession (Part II)

by Kresno Putro *)


In part II of this paper, it will describe briefly some requirements for building and operating a spaceport, the requirement is divided into requirements for location and requirements for infrastructures. Afterward the feasibility of building a spaceport in Indonesia will be investigated.

General Requirements for Spaceport

In the attempts of building a spaceport in Indonesia indeed it should be considered and investigated its requirements and conditions and whether Indonesia is able to fulfill them. General requirements, especially the technical ones, can be divided into two parts, namely requirements for spaceport location and requirements for its infrastructures.

Requirements for Location

In choosing location for spaceport, main aspects to be considered are its safety and efficiency.

q The location should be suited with the primary mission of the spaceport, whether its priority is for GSO launches or for other orbits. For instance, if the spaceport is mainly intended for GSO launches, equatorial location is preferable because it can reduce the fuel use thereby lengthen the satellite operation.

q Geographical and weather aspect of the location, incorporating the consideration for natural disaster like earthquake, flood, volcano eruption, etc.

q Environmental aspects around the location, like the existing infrastructures, industrial location, the availability of electricity and water, gas, etc., including economic, social and cultural aspect.

q A spaceport should have open sea frontage around 180o so that it can function optimally, that is able to launch vehicle northward, southward, eastward, or other direction between south and north.

q A spaceport should have safe drop site location hence every remainder of launch vehicle can drop in safe area, particularly to the sea.

q Land surface and its depth should strong enough to hold heavy load, specifically it should be appropriate with launch vehicles to be used and the mission to be performed.

q In order to reduce construction and operation cost, the following should be taken into consideration:

· The number of population should be relocated
· Cost of land as minimum as possible
· The availability of adequate international airport and seaport, which the distance is not too far from the chosen location.
· The accessibility of roadway to the nearest airport or seaport.
· The availability of adequate electricity and clean water.
· The availability of adequate water for dialing with fire danger possibility.
· The availability of waste disposal.

Other aspects should not be forgot is the ample support from law and regulatory aspect because construction and operation of spaceport will much relate to regulatory aspect and international relationship, either bilateral or multilateral relationship.

Technical Requirements For Infrastructures

As it be known, a spaceport is comprised with many hi-tech facilities and infrastructures, which are expensive and some of them maybe dangerous or poisonous and able to cause big explosion. Technical requirements of the infrastructures much depend on rocket or launch vehicle type to be used and the missions will be performed by the spaceport. Nevertheless, in general the technical requirements needed for spaceport can be stated below:

q Having high safety factor and equipped with layered security equipment so that if one part of system fail there are still other systems can be used for rescuing. For example, it needs various equipment or cooling compressor to maintain temperature of rocket fuel below 20oC and rescue valve equipment if fuel’s pressure excess the normal value. Besides, in building a spaceport it should be considered the zoning of buildings and facilities, for example buildings/facilities distance are arranged in certain blocks which getting distant from launching pad. Commonly, the blocking of facilities is ordered as follow:

§ Launching pad as a center point
§ Firing control facility in the first radius, having distance more than 1 km.
§ Control facility center
§ Plan assembly facility, tester, etc., with distance more than 5 kms from the launching pad
§ Housing and office facility and also other auxiliary facilities.

q Having high reliability factor because it involves high cost and technologies so that the operation successful level should be high.

q Considering that launch vehicle and most of its supporting systems consist of chemical elements that could be poisonous or dangerous, it should be environment friendly like the necessity of anti-poisonous material to neutralize poisonous gas content in the air around the spaceport.

q Every facility should be built using high strength material, either to restrain very high load or very high temperature. For example, the load will be endured by launching pad building is the rocket weight added with rocket’s pushing force, which for commercial rocket it is typically more than 3 times the rocket’s weight (or the ratio between rocket’s weight and its pushing force is 1:3). If the weight of rocket is 50 ton, hence its pushing force will be 150 ton and the total load that the launching pad should hold is 200 ton. For launching weaponry rockets, it needs much stronger facilities because it should withstand load with the ratio between rocket weight and its pushing force is 1:10, intended to speed up initial moving of the rocket. Besides, the launching pad must be able to retain heat until 2000oC and therefore needs good cooling system, especially in its flame detector.

q Having high security factor which able to protect all facilities in spaceport from any disturbances.

Indonesia’s Efforts

The number of space vehicle (rockets, satellites) launches with various purposes are growing for years and countries having launch facilities are competing in giving more reliable and economic launching services. Besides, considering the Indonesia’s needs in operating numerous space vehicles either for continuing already existing satellite systems like SKSD Palapa, Telkom satellite, Cakrawarta, and garuda, or also for other satellite-application needs like remote sensing, navigation and geodesy, meteorology, researches and for technology development in regard with country autonomy. Those space vehicle launches, either for Indonesia or for other countries needs are expected can be done in Indonesia itself.

Based on above conditions, the building and operation of spaceport in Indonesia, which geographically lies on equatorial region and has wide sea, expected to give high competitive factor in the launching service competition. However in order to determine its feasibility, these following factor should be considered:

Domestic Factor

q The Indonesia’s location and geographic condition, lying along the equator greatly supports the development and the operation of spaceport, which is not possessed by most countries, even by countries already have spaceport facility. Spaceport located on equator will be more efficient compare to other location although they have same technical capability, mainly for delivering satellites to GSO. The satellite launches (GSO) eastward along the equator will give benefit thereby additional velocity from the earth rotation and does not need maneuvers which can consume the satellite’s fuel. This advantage can improve Indonesian competitive factor and can attract other countries to build a partnership in developing spaceport in Indonesia.

q Concerning Indonesia’s location between two continents and two oceans, covering wide sea area, then if the safety aspect is considered, Indonesia is very potential to be one of commercial launch center in the world.

q The Indonesia’s capability of mastering space technology including its human resources are dispersed in certain institutions and industries (e.g. LAPAN, BPPT, LIPI, BATAN, TNI-AU, PT. Industri Dirganta, PT. Telkom, PT. Indosat, PT. Satelindo, PT PSN, PT Media Citra Indostar), and in universities and other research institution, with coordination and integration, is an adequate competence to support the development of spaceport in Indonesia.

q Indonesia’s experiences in building huge and international projects, carried out by government, private companies, or in partnership with other countries, can be made as a foundation for building a spaceport in Indonesia.

Political stability, also economic and social stability, however still become impediment that may inhibit the development of spaceport in Indonesia. This condition is hopefully getting better so that gives more conducive climate for this effort.

International Factor

q The growing of launch vehicles number for various missions in the future will be continually increasing, causing the increasing demands in launching services. This will not only make greater market for launching services but also as a challenge for the countries having the spaceport to seize these opportunities.

q Some countries like RRC and ex-Uni Soviet (Russia, Ukraina, Uzbekhistan and Kazakhstan), and other private companies from developed countries, starting from economical view, have offered technologies needed for the development and the operation of spaceport. This offering, of course not only for Indonesia but also for other countries which can be regarded as Indonesia’s competitors.

q As the impact of global market and investment that cause increasing collaboration among countries, will give great chance for developing spaceport in Indonesia in partnership with other countries having space development programs.

q Industrial countries (G-7), since 1987, have proclaimed a treaty “ Missile Technology Control Region” (MTCR) which applies technology flow boundary, especially the flow from the members of this group to other countries which are strategic and having high economic prospect. Today, 26 countries (some of them are developing countries) have become MTCR members. These MTCR countries may interfere the development of spaceport in Indonesia, considering Indonesia is not MTCR member.

By concerning these factors, either domestic and international, it can be concluded that the Indonesia’s chance in building and operating a spaceport is still open, even though it should be companied by hard efforts and works.

Speaking about the real efforts have been done, in the middle of 80s, exactly in 1985, in a seminar held in Singapore, it has been stated the planning of building a spaceport in Indonesia. In this occasion, RRC, represented by Creatwall Co., which operates launch vehicle Long March, has proposed an offering a partnership in building and operating a spaceport in Indonesia, especially in Riau island.

In addition, the Indonesian National Institute of Aeronautics and Space (LAPAN) as a research institution in the aeronautic field, individually or by corporation with, has carried out some studies in seeing the challenge of building a spaceport in Indonesia. From these researches, it is stated that Indonesia is very potential location to be built a commercial spaceport. Some of the most potential areas are Biak Island and Waigeo Island in Papua, Halmahera Island in Maluku, and Bintan Island in Riau. All of these areas have the advantage of having penalty number 0 and efficient number 24% more than Cape Kennedy in U.S has, if it is used to launch satellite to GSO eastward.

More real efforts have been made since 1995, starting with the ideas and attempts from independent team whose members are experts from LAPAN and supported by private company (PT. Mercu Buana) and also some of related institutions coordinated by Defense Department. It has made some preparations for building and operating a spaceport in Indonesia.

Some of the results of these efforts are the assignment of MOU between Indonesia government and Ukrain government in building spaceport in Indonesia, the assignment of MOU between Indonesia’s private companies and international consortium including Global Aero Design (Singapore), Ukraina government, and Ellipsat Inc. (U.S), and also has been prepared the draft of RI’s president decision about the development and the operation of spaceport in Indonesia.

However, because of monetary crisis in Asia including Indonesia since 1997, these real efforts have to be terminated. Lately, since the early 1999 this effort is tried to be revisited through the areas which are potential to be a spaceport like North Celebes and Riau. In fact, North Celebes’ DPRD, government, and certain private companies have performed some discussions several times.

Efforts have been made so far have not attained significant results yet in realizing Indonesia’s obsession to own spaceport. Besides external factors, this can be caused by un-concentrated Indonesia’s resources. Regarding to the efforts of managing Indonesia’s resources for spaceport building, apparently the Indonesian Satellite Association (ASSI), as an association in satellite-field, can give more significant role.


Since the decade of 70-s, Indonesia has used satellite services for various purposes like telecommunication, broadcasting, remote-sensing, weather forecasting, etc., and these application will be growing in the future. Based on this, it is natural for Indonesia to have an obsession of having and operating its own spaceport, and for realizing this obsession of course adequate infrastructures are needed.
Considering some aspects, mainly Indonesia’s location in equator and has much sea, Indonesia is potential to be built and operated a spaceport, either for launching to GSO or to other orbits. Besides boosting Indonesia’s autonomy, the development of spaceport will also motivate the development of other fields, not only in aeronautic one.

Efforts have been made so far have not attained significant results yet to realize Indonesia’s obsession to own spaceport. Besides external factors, this can be caused by the un-concentrated Indonesia’s resources. Regarding to the efforts of managing Indonesia’s resources for the development of spaceport in Indonesia, apparently the Indonesian Satellite Association (ASSI), as an association in satellite-field, can give more significant role.


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  7. “Pra Studi Kelayakan Pembangunan Bandar Antariksa di Indonesia”, Pusat Analisis Perkembangan Kedirgantaraan - LAPAN, 2000.

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