The China Great Wall Industry Corp yesterday signed a landmark agreement with Astrium, a major European satellite manufacturer, to launch an Intelsat satellite aboard a Chinese-made Long March 3B rocket next year.
It is the first time Intelsat has chosen the Chinese launch vehicle since the model's unsuccessful maiden flight five years ago.
Both the rocket and an Intelsat satellite exploded shortly after take-off in the February 1996 accident.
Zhang Xinxia, president of the Great Wall company, said the new agreement demonstrated the international space community, including Intelsat -- the world's largest satellite organization -- has reinjected trust in China's aerospace industry.
Since October 1996, Long March launch vehicles have achieved 23 consecutive successful launches.
The Long March 3B -- the most powerful rocket developed in China -- has reported four straight successful launches after its failed first attempt, according to Zhang, whose company is the country's sole business authorized to provide international launch services.
Conny Kullman, chief executive officer of Intelsat, said he believed China Great Wall company had done a lot of hard work to improve quality control following the 1996 setback, and had chalked up a string of successes.
He said Intelsat has full confidence in the capability of Chinese launch vehicles, and he believed that the current Long March 3B will be successful.
The new Intelsat satellite, APR-3/Sinosat-1B, which Intelsat signed a contract to buy from its manufacturer Astrium yesterday in Beijing, is a geostationary satellite set to provide broadcast and data transmission services over China, Russia, India and the Middle East, according to Kullman.
The CEO said he believed China is one of the fastest growing communications markets in the world, and the growth in the communications industry has fuelled activity in the region, both in and outside the nation.
He said he viewed the new agreement with the China Great Wall company as the beginning of a new strategic partnership between Intelsat and China.
As to the use of the new satellite's resources, the Sino Satellite Communications Co yesterday signed a satellite capacity arrangement agreement with Intelsat.
The pact will allow the Beijing-based satellite operator to own six China-beam transponders in the satellite, according to Cheng Guangren, president of the Sino Satellite company.
In all, the 3.284-ton satellite has 30 KU-band transponders. Its expected lifespan is 12 years.
The satellite is scheduled to be launched in spring 2002 from Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Southwest China's Sichuan Province.
(China Daily 03/25/2001)