Russia has again urged the Indonesian government to conclude a much-delayed agreement on a milestone satellite station project, offering the idea of Indonesia becoming a “prestigious space nation”.
Russian Ambassador to Indonesia Alexander A. Ivanov reiterated on Tuesday his country’s keen interest in the project to develop a satellite launch station on the Indonesian island of Biak, which is situated off the northern coast of Papua and 3,200 kilometers northeast of Jakarta.
The plan was first made public in 2006, but no agreement has so far been concluded to pave the way for its implementation.
“To tell you frankly, the draft agreement is almost ready with the exception of one article. It is on missile technology immunity,” Ivanov told a media briefing in Jakarta, adding that the Biak project would utilize technology possessed only by Russia that had not been used anywhere else in the world.
He said Indonesia was still troubled by the article, but Russia kept pushing for it given that Indonesia was not a member of the Missile Technology Control Regime; an informal and voluntary partnership between 34 countries to prevent the proliferation of missile and unmanned aerial vehicle technology capable of carrying a 500-kg payload at least 300 km.
Ivanov said Russia, as a member of the regime, had “international obligations” on the safeguards.
Contacted separately, Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Michael Tene refused to discuss why the Indonesian government still objected to the contentious clause, citing only “technical issues” behind the prolonged negotiations over the Biak project.
“As the negotiations are still ongoing, I cannot add anything more,” Michael told The Jakarta Post.
Ivanov explained that the Biak station would be an air-launch station, meaning satellites would be launched from a “mothership” aircraft instead of from the ground.
He said this was more “ecologically friendly”, adding that ground-based launches usually caused pollution on the ground and in the air.
“If this project is implemented, Indonesia will become a space nation. Indonesia will have the opportunity to launch commercial satellites from all over the world, especially countries situated in the Asia-Pacific region.”
Ivanov refused to share what was in the project for Russia, but added that it would be very “beneficial” and “prestigious” to Indonesia.
He added Biak was chosen due to its proximity to the equator, reducing the cost of satellite launches.
“The cost of launching is eight times cheaper in comparison to launching satellites, for example, from territories in Kazakhstan or Russia.”
Ivanov also reiterated on Tuesday Russia’s interest in boosting its trade and investment partnerships with Indonesia.
He said a delegation of about 40 representatives from major Russian private companies would visit Indonesia at the end of the month to seek business opportunities in Southeast Asia’s largest economy.
They include representatives from the space technology, oil and gas, railway and agriculture sectors, Ivanov said.