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Military communications satellite launched by China

Posted: September 18, 2011

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A Chinese communications satellite, potentially designed to relay messages between Chinese military forces, blasted off on a Long March rocket Sunday.

The Chinasat 1A spacecraft launched at 1633 GMT (12:33 p.m. EDT) Sunday from the Xichang space base in southwestern China's Sichuan province. It was 12:33 a.m. local time at the launch site.

A Long March 3B/E rocket lifted the 11,500-pound satellite into a geosynchronous transfer orbit with a high point of more than 22,200 miles, a low point of almost 120 miles and an inclination of 27 degrees, according to U.S. military tracking data.

China didn't announce the launch in advance, but state media reported after the flight that the payload will provide "high-quality voice communication, broadcast and data transmission services for users across China," according to the Xinhua news agency.

Western analysts believe Chinasat 1A will serve the Chinese military.

Xinhua reported the spacecraft was manufactured by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. The satellite could be based on the DFH-4 spacecraft bus, China's most powerful standardized platform for communications missions.

Sunday's blastoff was the first Chinese space launch since the Aug. 18 failure of a different version of the Long March rocket.

It was the 10th space launch attempt by China this year, and nine of those missions have been successful.