China launches high-power Ka-band communications satellite

A Chinese Long March 3B rocket takes off with the Chinasat 19 communications satellite. Credit: CASC

China launched a high-power communications satellite Saturday on a mission to connect airline passengers, maritime vessels, and other users across China, Southeast Asia, and remote routes between the Asia-Pacific region and North America.

The Chinasat 19, or Zhongxing 19, communications satellite lifted off on a Long March 3B rocket at 7:50 a.m. EDT (1150 GMT) Saturday from the Xichang launch base in Sichuan province of southwestern China.

The Long March 3B took off powered by a core stage and booster engines fueled by toxic hydrazine. The rocket shed its strap-on boosters and core stage in the first three minutes of the flight, then a second stage took over to continue accelerating into space. A cryogenic third stage fueled by liquid hydrogen finished the job of placing the Chinasat 19 satellite into an elliptical, or oval-shaped, transfer orbit ranging between 136 miles (220 kilometers) nearly 22,250 miles (35,800 kilometers) in altitude.

U.S. military tracking data confirmed the mission placed the Chinasat 19 satellite into the intended orbit, and Chinese officials declared the launch a success. Chinasat 19 will use its own propulsion to reach a circular geosynchronous orbit more than 22,000 miles over the equator, where it will take position over the Asia-Pacific region and orbit in lock-step with Earth’s rotation.

The Chinasat 19 satellite was built by the China Academy of Space Technology, or CAST, a state-owned aerospace contractor. Chinasat 19 is based on the enhanced DFH-4E satellite bus, a derivative of the DFH-4 platform used by dozens of Chinese satellites since 2006.

Designed for a 15-year lifetime, Chinasat 19 is owned by China Satcom, which provides civilian communications services across the country. Chinasat 19 carries a Ka-band high-throughout communications payload designed for broadband internet services, and also hosts Ku-band and C-band transponders.

Chinasat 19 will help replace coverage that was planned to be provided by Chinasat 18, a similar satellite that failed shortly after launch in 2019. The new satellite will offer a “fast transmission rate and wide coverage,” according to the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp., or CASC, the top state-owned contractor in China’s space program.

Once operational, Chinasat 19 will connect users in eastern China, Southeast Asia, and most of the Pacific region including routes between Asia and North America for ships and airplanes.

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