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    Hammaguir, Algerian Sahara... Preparations were under way on February 9th for the Friday launching of?

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    Hammaguir, Algerian Sahara... Preparations were under way on February 9th for the Friday launching of France's third satellite and second "Diamant" rocket.

    In a break with past secrecy, the Army flew in dozens of French and Foreign Correspondents and other guests for the launch. Fuel for the three ??? rocket was ferried across the desert by a long column of French military trucks. Thousands of gallons of liquid fuel were brought to the 10 story, 500 foot launching pad "Brigitte"in preparation for the take off. Technicians screwed into position the 41.8 round, (19 kgs) capsule to be placed in orbit the next day.

    Unless a sand storm or other weather freak interrupts, the countdown for the launch would start at 0100 and the firing would be at 1000. The capsule carries four antennae with 2,304 solar cells to power the scientific instruments inside. The instruments will study the earth contours, temperature and atmospheric pressures. It is due to he placed on a highly elliptical orbit, 505 kms (313 miles) at its lowest point and 2,670 kms (1,670 miles) at its highest point above earth.

    Although France is to evacuate the Hammaguir Dase in 1967 under the 1962 Algerian Peace Treaty, the French Military are busy putting up new telemetric installations to test future rocket flights before they transfer their activities to the giant space center being built at French Guiana. If all goes well on Friday, the Diamant will send information to rench tracking stations at Bretigny, near Paris, Guagadougou, Upper Volta, Brazzaville, Congo and Pretoria in South Africa.

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    Reuters - Source to be Verified
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    Available on request
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