China launch VENESAT-1 – debut bird for Venezuela

by Rui C. Barbosa

China has launched Venezuelan’s first satellite, Simon Bolivar (or VENESAT-1 – the UN official designation), Wednesday. Simon Bolivar was orbited by a CZ-3B Chang Zheng-3B (CZ3B-11) launch vehicle, which launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan Province at 16:53 UTC.

Developed on the template of the CZ-3A Chang Zheng-3A, the CZ-3B Chang Zheng-3B is the most powerful launch vehicle on the Chinese space launch fleet.

The CZ-3B features enlarged launch propellant tanks, better computer systems, a larger 4.2 meter diameter payload fairing, and the addition of four strap-on boosters in the core stage that give an additional help during the first phase of the launch.

The rocket is capable of launching a 11,200 kg satellite to a low Earth orbit or a 5,100 kg cargo to a geosynchronous transfer orbit. The rocket has a total length of 54/84 meters and a core diameter of 3.35 meters.

The first launch of the CZ-3B took place on February 14, 1996, but ended in failure that is now known has the “S. Valentine’s Day Massacre” – when the first CZ-3B failed two seconds after lift-off and crashed in a near by village killing dozens of people.

Simon Bolivars launch was the 11th use of the CZ-3B, the seventh successful orbital launch for China this year and the 112th successful orbital launch overall.

The satellite is based on the DFH-4 bus and is the first time that China has launched a satellite for Latin America. The agreement for the development, construction and launch of Simon Bolivar was signed on November 1, 2005 – for what was originally a launch date target of July 2008.

The development of Simon Bolivar has been classed as “of strategic and historical importance for Venezuela and China”, according the words of the country’s leader Hugo Chavez.

Venezuela had an equal role in the development of the satellite, which will be used for government and military communications – it will also to give remote areas of Venezuela access to telephone communications, fax, videoconferencing, high speed Internet, radio, tele-medicine and tele-education.

According to the Science and Technology Minister, Nuris Orihuela, the total cost of the project is 241 million dollars, plus 165 millions dollars for the construction of two control stations in Bolivia and Guárico (Venezuela).

The agreement for the launch of the Venezuelan satellite also involved a technology transfer between the two countries. Under this deal, 90 Venezuelan specialists have worked on the satellite – with the first 30 arriving in China on March 2, 2007.

These engineers acquired basic knowledge at the Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and also received professional satellite engineering training, together with the second group of technicians that arrived later that month. Venezuela also bought military technology from China, and the two countries have made various agreements in the oil industry.

The satellite itself will also be used by Uruguay, which is allowing use of its geostationary orbital position at 78 degrees E above Ecuador by Venezuela.

Simon Bolivar has a launch mass of 3,100 kg, with solar panels that have a 12.1 meters span. The satellite is equipped with 12 C-band transponders (radio and TV signal), 14 Ku-band (data and high speed Internet) and Ka-band (future digital TV signal). The satellite will be operational for 15 years.

Xichang Satellite Launch Centre is situated in the Sichuan Province, south-western China and is the country’s launch site for geosynchronous orbital launches.

Equipped with two launch pads (LC2 and LC3), the centre has a dedicated railway and highway lead directly to the launch site. The Command and Control Centre is located seven kilometres south-west of the launch pad, providing flight and safety control during launch rehearsal and launch.

Other facilities on the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre are the Launch Control Centre, propellant fuelling systems, communications systems for launch command, telephone and data communications for users, and support equipment for meteorological monitoring and forecasting.

The first launch from Xichang took place at 12:25UTC on January 29, 1984, when the CZ-3 Chang Zheng-3 (CZ3-1) was launched to orbit the Shiyan Weixing (14670 1984-008A) communications satellite. Simon Bolivars launch was the 48th successful orbital launch from Xichang.

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