China launches first satellite for Laos

Built and financed by China, a $258 million Laotian communications satellite project launched Friday aboard a Long March 3B rocket to better connect the mountainous Southeast Asia nation and surrounding regions.

The LaoSat 1 spacecraft is the first satellite for Laos, an achievement Laotian state media hailed as a “landmark” for the country.

The satellite lifted off at 1607 GMT (11:07 a.m. EST) from the Xichang launch center in southwestern China’s Sichuan province, according to China’s official Xinhua news agency.

Assisted by four strap-on liquid-fueled boosters, the Long March 3B rocket powered into space from Xichang, and deployed LaoSat 1 in a geostationary transfer orbit ranging between 190 kilometers (118 miles) and 41,787 kilometers (29,965 miles) in altitude, with an inclination of 18.4 degrees, according to U.S. military satellite tracking data.

LaoSat 1’s on-board propulsion system will boost the satellite into a circular geostationary orbit over the equator in the coming weeks, eventually guiding the spacecraft into a permanent operating position at 128.5 degrees east longitude.

The satellite hosts 14 C-band and eight Ku-band transponders, and it has a design life of 15 years.

“The LaoSat 1 will be very beneficial to our country because the majority of our country is mountainous,” said Hiem Phommachanh, the minister of post and telecommunications in Laos, in a statement published by the state-owned Lao News Agency. “Our satellite will be used for many purposes, including distance education and medicine, telecommunications and internet links, as well as facilitating anti disaster efforts.”

Two of the 22 transponders on LaoSat 1 will be used within Laos, the government said, and the rest of the payload will be leased to foreign customers.

The satellite is owned by the LaoSat 1 Joint Venture Co., with joint ownership by the Laotian government and the China Asia-Pacific Mobile Telecommunications Satellite Co.

The Lao News Agency reported the value of the LaoSat 1 project is $258 million, financed through a loan agreement with the Export-Import Bank of China.

The satellite will be controlled from a facility in the Laotian capital of Vientiane staffed by Laotian and Chinese engineers, state media reported.

LaoSat 1 was manufactured by the China Academy of Space Technology and is based on the builder’s DFH-4S satellite platform, according to APT Satellite, a Hong Kong satellite operator hired as a consultant on the LaoSat 1 project. Other sources indicate the spacecraft is built on the DFH-3B satellite bus.

Chinese President Xi Jinping called the LaoSat 1 project “a significant manifestation of China-Laos comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership under new circumstances,” according to Xinhua.

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