100th Long March rocket
soars with TV satellite
BY STEPHEN CLARK
Posted: May 31, 2007
A television broadcasting satellite to cover Southeast Asia was launched Thursday on the 100th flight of China's venerable Long March rocket family, state media reported.
The Sinosat 3 spacecraft used a Long March 3A rocket for the 24-minute trip to a temporary transfer orbit. The 172-foot-tall booster launched from the Xichang space base in southwestern China at 1608 GMT (12:08 p.m. EDT) Thursday, or just minutes after midnight Friday Beijing time, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency.
The mission marked the 100th flight of China's Long March rocket, which launched the nation's first satellite in 1970. Since 1996, variants of the launcher have completed 58 consecutive successful missions.
Sinosat 3 was released by the rocket's third stage into an elliptical geostationary transfer orbit. An on-board propulsion system will gradually nudge the craft's path higher in the next few weeks until it reaches a circular orbit about 22,300 miles high. The satellite's speed will then match Earth's rotation, and the spacecraft will appear to hover over a point along the Equator at 125 degrees East longitude near Indonesia.
The satellite is designed to last up to 15 years in space, and its 10 C-band transponders will be able to reach as far as Russia and the Philippines, according to Sino Satellite Communications Co., or Sinosat, the craft's operator.
Much of Sinosat 3's activities will focus on television and radio broadcasting across China and other nearby regions.
China has 12.6 million digital television subscribers and 400 million television sets, "suggesting a huge potential market for satellite (television)," Xinhua reported.
Sinosat was established in 1994 to provide broadcasting, data transmission and Internet services to customers throughout China and neighboring countries. The state-owned organization already controls Sinosat 1, a satellite launched in 1998.
The company's second craft was delivered to space in October, but it failed to deploy its solar panels and communications antennas a few days later. The satellite was declared a total loss, Xinhua reported.
Sinosat 2 was planned to be China's first direct-to-home broadcasting satellite, and a replacement spacecraft will not be ready to launch before 2009, Sinosat officials said last year.
Thursday's launch was the sixth of the year for China, which had already lofted navigation, communications and Earth observation satellites.
China plans to continue its quick pace in space launches for much of the year. The nation expects to send its first probe to the Moon in September, according to earlier reports.