Author Topic: How Elon Musk's SpaceX was boosted in Indonesia by a Chinese rocket failure  (Read 193 times)

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Offline Elderberry

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Reuters by By Stefanno Sulaiman, Devjyot Ghoshal and Joe Brock 2/20/2024


•   China and Musk's SpaceX lead new space race
•   April 2020 Chinese rocket malfunction a turning point
•   Musk influence, SpaceX reliability swayed Indonesia from China
•   U.S. officials concerned about reliance on SpaceX

JAKARTA, Feb 20 (Reuters) - When a Chinese rocket malfunctioned shortly after launch in April 2020, destroying Indonesia's $220 million Nusantara-2 satellite, it was a blow to the archipelago's efforts to strengthen its communication networks. But it presented an opportunity for one man.

Elon Musk - the owner of SpaceX, the world's most successful rocket launcher – seized on the failure to prevail over state-owned China Great Wall Industry Corp (CGWIC) as Jakarta's company of choice for putting satellites into space.

The Chinese contractor had courted Indonesia - Southeast Asia's largest economy and a key space growth market - with cheap financing, promises of broad support for its space ambitions and the geopolitical heft of Beijing.

A senior government official and two industry officials in Jakarta familiar with the matter told Reuters the malfunction marked a turning point for Indonesia to move away from Chinese space contractors in favour of companies owned by Musk.

Nusantara-2 was the second satellite launch awarded by Indonesia to CGWIC, matching the two carried out by SpaceX at that time. Since its failure, SpaceX has launched two Indonesian satellites, with a third set for Tuesday; China has handled none.

SpaceX edged out Beijing through a combination of launch reliability, cheaper reusable rockets, and the personal relationship Musk nurtured with Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Reuters found. Following a meeting between the two men in Texas in 2022, SpaceX also won regulatory approval for its Starlink satellite internet service.

The SpaceX deals mark a rare instance of a Western company making inroads in Indonesia, whose telecommunications sector is dominated by Chinese companies that offer low costs and easy financing. The successes came after Indonesia resisted U.S. pressure to abandon its deals with Chinese tech giant Huawei, citing its dependence on Beijing's technology.