Chinese Rocket Launches Communications Satellite Into Space

China' Long March 3B Rocket Launches
A Chinese Long March 3B rocket launched the Apstar 7 telecommunications satellite on March 31, 2012 from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center. (Image credit: China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology)

PARIS — APT Satellite Holdings of Hong Kong on April 1 said its Apstar 7 telecommunications satellite, launched March 31 aboard a Chinese Long March 3B rocket, was healthy in orbit and in the coming weeks would replace the retiring Apstar 2R spacecraft at 76.5 degrees east.

Built by Thales Alenia Space of France and Italy and carrying 28 C-band and 28 Ku-band transponders, Apstar 7’s successful launch and in-orbit checkout will mean that APT will transfer ownership of Apstar 7B, still in construction, to China Satcom.

APT and the state-owned China Satcom of Beijing had agreed in 2010 that China Satcom would arrange up to 100 million euros ($132 million) in financing for Apstar 7B and would add the satellite to its own fleet unless Apstar 7 failed at launch or otherwise was not functioning in orbit.

Thales Alenia Space built Apstar 7 under a 128.5-million-euro contract. Apstar 7B, which is a nearly identical copy using the same Spacebus 4000 C2 satellite frame, was subject to a separate construction contract valued at 112.3 million euros, according to APT.

APT contracted with China Great Wall Industry Corp. of Beijing to launch Apstar 7 for $68 million. The launch occurred from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China's Sichuan Province.

APT will be transferring customers from Apstar 2R to Apstar 7. APT President Cheng Guangren said in an April 1 statement that the company has been "actively promoting its Apstar 2R replacement program to the market and the feedback so far has been excellent."

Apstar 7's Ku-band transponders will include beams dedicated to China, the Middle East, North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa and a steerable beam. APT hopes to use this new capacity to grow its revenue in 2012.

This article was provided by Space News, dedicated to covering all aspects of the space industry.

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Charles Q. Choi
Contributing Writer

Charles Q. Choi is a contributing writer for and Live Science. He covers all things human origins and astronomy as well as physics, animals and general science topics. Charles has a Master of Arts degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia, School of Journalism and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of South Florida. Charles has visited every continent on Earth, drinking rancid yak butter tea in Lhasa, snorkeling with sea lions in the Galapagos and even climbing an iceberg in Antarctica. Visit him at