China launches SinoSat-6 telecommunications satellite via Long March 3B

by Rui C. Barbosa and Chris Bergin

A Long March 3B (CZ-3B – Y13) has launched with the SinoSat-6 (also known as the ChinaSat-6A) telecommunications satellite on behalf of China. Lift-off took place at 16:14 UTC on Saturday September 4 (September 5 – 12:14 am local time) from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in SouthWest China’s Sichuan Province. The satellite will replace the SinoSat-3 satellite at 125 degrees East. (Launch Image from

Chinese Launch:

The Chang Zheng-3B (CZ-3B) is China’s most powerful launch vehicle, featuring enlarged launch propellant tanks, better computer systems, a larger 4.2 meter (or 4.0 meter) diameter payload fairing – and the addition of four strap-on boosters in the core stage for additional boost 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 in its basic version. The vehicle 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 failed shortly after lift-off in what is now known has the ‘St. Valentine’s Day Massacre’.

That failure occurred when the first CZ-3B stage suffered a problem just two seconds after lift-off, resulting in the vehicle veering heavily off the pad. With no range safety on board, the vehicle flew almost sideways for around a minute, before nose-diving into a nearby town, killing an untold amount of people. Recently unearthed raw video (30mb) of the launch, impact, and aftermath available on L2.

The first successful launch of the vehicle took place on August 19th, 1997, when the second CZ-3B orbited the Agila-2 ‘Mabuhay’ (24901 1997-042A) communications satellite.

China Satcom, a division of CASC, is in charge of operating the Sinosats, of which SinoSat-6 is being classed as a substitute bird.

SinoSat-6 is a communications satellite based on the DFH-4 platform, and was built by the Chinese Academy for Space Technology. The satellite has an operational life of 15 years and will operate from geosynchronous orbit at 125 degrees east.

The spacecraft uses a three-axis stabilized DFH-4 bus, equipped with 24 C-band, 8 Ku band and 1 S band transponders. SinoSat-6 will cover China and partly its neighbouring countries.

The Xichang Satellite Launch Centre is situated in the Sichuan Province, south-western China and is the country’s prime 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 kilometers 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 12:25 UTC on January 29, 1984, when the CZ-3 Chang Zheng-3 (CZ3-1) was launched the Shiyan Weixing (14670 1984-008A) communications satellite into orbit.

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