Spacenet II, GTE Spacenet's second communications satellite designed to expand the capacity of the company's Sprint long-distance telephone service, was fired this weekend into its final orbital position south of Boston and 22,300 miles above the equator.

Three weeks ago, the 1 1/4-ton satellite, tucked into the nose cone of a French rocket, was sent into space from a launch pad in French Guiana, South America. GTE said it chose the rocket made by Arianespace N.A., a French space transport company, over competitors such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration because its launch vehicle was more readily available and was more economical.

Spacenet II is the "workhorse" satellite in a three-part, $300-million program by the McLean-based GTE Spacenet Corp. to increase the capacity and quality of its voice, video and data transmission network, said GTE spokesman William Brobst.

Spacenet I was successfully launched in May, and a third satellite is scheduled for lift-off sometime next year. The GTE II satellite is one of an alphabet soup of functional, dysfunctional, and, in one case, missing satellites circling the globe. Included in the crowded sky are 18 other commercial satellites operated by U.S. businesses such as Hughes Aircraft Co., American Telephone & Telegraph Co. and Satellite Business Systems.

Spacenet II, which was built by RCA Astro Electronics, is 47 feet wide from tip to tip of its solar collecting "wings," which power the satellite. The body, or "bus," which contains two satellie dishes -- one for each of the two frequencies Spacenet II will use -- is 10 feet high.

The satellite will be monitored and controlled from the GTE Spacenet Satellite Control Center at Spacenet headquarters in McLean.

Columbia Data Products Inc., the Columbia-based maker of IBM-compatible personal computers, has announced plans to sell its manufacturing arm to a new company.

Under terms of the proposed agreement, the firm would turn over two production facilities in Columbia, and a manufacturing plant in Puerto Rico, to a firm called Evergreen Technologies.

Columbia said last week that the spinoff would include only the facilities and related production equipment, and that the company would retain its proprietary technology and product lines. The 250 workers at the affected plants will keep their jobs as part of the agreement, the firm said.

Columbia would not elaborate on the proposed buyers, except to say they include some of the microcomputer industry's "major players."

The proposed sale follows a third-quarter loss of more than $28 million. The sale -- which must be approved by Columbia's banks, shareholders and major suppliers -- is expected to result in a fourth-quarter gain of more than $6 million.

The comptroller of the currency has approved applications by two Virginia banks to operate limited-service banks in the Maryland suburbs.

But the Federal Reserve Board complicated plans by Sovran Financial Corp. of Norfolk and Dominion Bankshares Corp. of Roanoke by imposing restrictions on the new banks.

The comptroller gave preliminary approval to Sovran to open a bank in Rockville, Md., and to Dominion Bankshares to establish a bank in Bethesda, Md.

The Federal Reserve Board, which barred the limited-service banks from using their holding companies to provide check clearing and other services, still must approve the Sovran and Dominion Bankshare applications.

United Telecom Communications Inc. in Richmond plans to purchase Lightnet fiber optic communication transmission systems in 24 states. An agreement between the firms also calls for construction of four fiber optics routes by United Telecom, a division of Kansas City-based United Telecommunications Inc. Lightnet is a joint venture of Southern New England Telephone Co. and CSX Corp.