Chinese Long March 3B/E launches Apstar-7

by Rui C. Barbosa

China opened their 2012 commercial launch manifest with the lofting of the Apstar-7 into orbit. The launch took place at 10:27UTC from the LC2 launch platform at the from the Xichang satellite Launch Center, using a Long March 3B/ (Chang Zheng-3B/E) launch vehicle.

Chinese Commercial Launch:

Apstar-7 satellite is an advanced telecommunications satellite based on Spacebus 4000 C2 of Thales Alenia Space with a lift-off mass of 5,054 kg and a design lifetime over 15 years.

The satellite has 56 operational transponders (28 C-band and 28 Ku-band) onboard, and will replace the current Apstar-2R satellite at 76.5 degrees East Longitude.

Apstar-7 satellite’s C-band global beam covers Asia, Africa, Australia and part of Europe, while its multiple Ku band include a China Beam, a Middle East & North Africa Beam, an Africa Beam and a Steerable Spot Beam – able to provide in-beam and cross-beam broadcast and telecommunication services.

The Spacebus 4000 is a medium-class telecommunication satellite (launch mass from 3000 kg for the B3 version to 5900 kg for the C4 version) with a strong successful flight heritage and proposed with a realistic and safe manufacturing schedule. It can easily accommodate a large range of payloads in every band (Ku, C, Ka, X, S, L) to satisfy customer needs.

The solar array power offered by the Spacebus 4000 is up to 15.8 kW with a payload power up to 11.6 kW, typically 80 to 100 active channels with medium RF power (105/110W in Ku band). Standard equipment and system designs available in Ku/C and Ka frequency bands, while other frequency bands (X, S, L) can be proposed.

Projected orbital injection parameters are 200 km perigee, 50,281 km apogee and 27.4 degree inclination.

China’s fourth launch in 2012 was also the 159th successful Chinese orbital launch, the 159th launch of a Chang Zheng launch vehicle, the 3rd launch from Xichang in 2012 and the 71st orbital launch from Xichang.

Established in 1980, China Great Wall Industry Corporation (CGWIC) is the sole commercial organization authorized by the Chinese government to provide satellites, commercial launch services and to carry out international space cooperation.

As the professional company promoting international cooperation for China’s space industry, CGWIC is devoted to the internationalized development of China’s space industry. CGWIC has developed into a system integrator for space products and services.

It can meet customers’ multi-directional needs by providing comprehensive solutions for commercial launch services, satellite export, satellite ground tracking and control station construction, satellite applications, project financing, project insurance and technical training, etc. Through extensive international cooperation, CGWIC enjoys an excellent reputation in the international aerospace industry, the financial community and the insurance circle.

In addition, CGWIC is actively involved in the international marketing of civilian products and services utilizing space technology and provides high quality products and specialized services in diversified fields including satellite technology applications, green energy, information & electronic products, petroleum & petrochemical equipment, new materials, consulting services, international trade, international exhibition, international logistics, project contracting, international bidding, etc.

APT Satellite Company Limited is one of the leading satellite operators in the Asia Pacific region. Its fleet of five Apstar satellites provides quality and “one-stop-shop” broadcast and telecommunications services covering about 75 percent of the world’s population in Asia, Europe, Africa and Australia. APT commissioned Apstar 7 with Thales Alenia Space France on September 29, 2009.

Thales Alenia Space France is one of the leading satellite manufacturers in the world. ApstarR-7 is the seventh Thales Alenia Space -manufactured satellite launched by Long March launch vehicle.

Launch vehicle:

Developed from 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 Apstar-7 launch was the 19th flight of CZ-3B and the 50th flight of CZ-3A series launch vehicles.

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 in the first phase of the launch.

The rocket – which has a total length of 54.84 meters and a core diameter of 3.35 meters – 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 first launch of the CZ-3B took place on February 14, 1996 – but ended in failure in what is now known has the “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre”. (L2 link for raw video). The disaster occurred when the CZ-3B failed two seconds after liftoff and crashed in a near by village killing untold numbers of local people.

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

In recent years, the CZ-3B/E (Enhanced Version) launch vehicle was developed, increasing the GTO capacity up to 5,500kg. The CZ-3B/E has nearly the same configurations with CZ-3B except its enlarged core stage and boosters.

On May 14, 2007, the first flight of CZ-3B/E was performed successfully, sending the NigcomSat-1 into pre-determined orbit. With the improved GTO launch capability, CZ-3B/E is dedicated for launching heavy GEO communications satellite.

Launch Site:

The 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 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 12:25UTC on January 29, 1984, when the CZ-3 Chang Zheng-3 (CZ3-1) launched the Shiyan Weixing (14670 1984-008A) communications satellite into orbit.

China Schedule:

While preparing for the long expected manned Shenzhou-9 launch, schedule do take place between June and August, China is keeping busy with a list of important upcoming missions.

In April, China is expected to conduct the first launch of the year from Jiuquan, with a Long March 2D launch vehicle orbiting the second TH-1 Tianhui mapping satellite. That will be followed – in April or May) – by the first dual Beidou-2 launch of the Long March 3B launch vehicle, orbiting two new Compass-M satellites. A similar launch is expected in June.

Other commercial or international missions later in the year include the launch of the VRSS-1 ‘Francisco Miranda’ satellite for Venezuela, scheduled for September or October, and the CBERS-3 international cooperation mission with Brazil, likely to take place in December.

The flagship Chinese mission is the manned docking mission of the Shenzhou-9. Flight hardware will likely be transported to Jiuquan in the next few weeks, with the currently unnamed flight crew already undergoing active training for the mission.

(Images via, Xinhua and L2).

Related Articles