China is to build and put into orbit a satellite for Nigeria, to be launched in early 2007, the China Great Wall Industry Corp said on Friday.
The planned communications satellite, NIGCOMSAT-1, will mark a breakthrough in China's international commercial space program with the country becoming both a manufacturer and launcher of satellites for foreign customers, Great Wall president Wang Haibo told a press conference in Beijing.
Since 1990, China has carried out 24 commercial launches for overseas customers, placing 30 satellites in space, he said.
But according to Wang, up to now China has only manufactured satellite components for other countries, never an entire satellite.
"The successful delivery of NIGCOMSAT-1 will rank us among the very few in the world capable of providing a satellite manufacture, launch and servicing package," said Wang, adding that design and production of the satellite, its launch vehicle and ground stations were well on course.
Based on the DFH-4, China's latest satellite platform, NIGCOMSAT-1 has just undergone a preliminary design review.
The project will enable the Great Wall company, the sole authorized satellite launch service provider in China, to secure a greater share of the international market, Wang said.
In addition to launching NIGCOMSAT-1 into orbit using a Long March 3B rocket from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in Southwest China, China will also train technicians and build a ground station in Nigeria.
According to Nigerian satellite program director Ahmed Rufai, the partnership with China is "mutually beneficial," and contributes to diversifying the African nation's monolithic economy from being resource-based to knowledge and service based.
The African country started the NIGCOMSAT-1 program in November 2003, and opened the project to international bidders, Rufai said.
China landed the contract last December by beating 21 companies from countries including the United States, France, Britain, Italy and Israel, Wang said.
This is largely because the China Great Wall Industry Corp had a "superlative proposal," with its technical capability and expertise well meeting Nigeria's stringent performance requirements, said George Nawar, a manager of Telesat Canada NIGCOMSAT-1 program's technical consultant.
"In terms of overall performance, the satellite will be on a par with other international advanced satellites," Wang said.
The satellite will be manufactured by the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST) and will carry 28 transponders to cover the whole of sub-Saharan Africa, addressing its needs for telephony, broadcasting, direct-to-home television, Internet and other services, said Zhou Zhicheng, chief designer of the DFH-4 satellite platform.
The satellite is designed with a mission life of 15 years and weighs about 5,100 kilograms, Zhou said.
Apart from building a satellite for Nigeria, China is using the same DFH-4 platform to construct a domestic telecommunications satellite, Sinosat-II, which will be placed into orbit next year, Wang said.
At the end of last year, the mainland satellite developers also signed a contract with APT Satellite Co Ltd in Hong Kong to launch APSTAR 6B, Wang said. He did not specify when the satellite would be launched.
(China Daily July 2, 2005)