Long March 3B successfully orbited APStar-9 satellite

On October 16 (UTC), 2015, Chinese conducted successful launch of Long March 3B launch vehicle carrying APStar-9 communications satellite of Hong Kong-based APT Satellite Company Ltd. from Xichang Satellite Launch Center.

This was the 214th mission of Long March series of launch vehicles, developed by China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), and already 7th Chinese mission this fall – no other country in the world has so intensive launch frequency in the second half of 2015.

Launch of Long March 3B carrying APStar-9 satellite from Xichang. Credit: Chinanews.com
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Weighting about 6 tons and having 15 years lifespan, APStar-9 satellite was developed basing on DFH-4 platform. According to NASA Spaceflight, it was made by Chinese industry (CASC subsidiaries) under a $211.2 million contract signed in 2013 between China Great Wall Industry Corporation and APT Satellite Company Ltd. of Hong Kong.

To be located at 142° East, APStar-9 will replace APStar-9A satellite. It is equipped with 32 C-band and 14 Ku-band transponders. C-band coverage consists of one broad beam for Asia-Pacific region and one enhanced beam for South-East Asia, suitable for video broadcasting, VSAT and cellular backhaul services. Ku-band coverage will provide West-Pacific and East-Indian Ocean regions with DTH, VSAT, and mobility services, such as maritime and inflight connectivity.

APStar-9 satellite coverage map. Credit: APT Satellite
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With APStar-9, APT's satellite fleet will be able to cover some three quarters of global population in Asia, Europe, Africa and Australia, providing it with TV, data transmission, and satellite communications services.

Notably, the launch of APStar-9 was not so smooth for villagers in southeastern China, who awoke to find a metal chunk from a space rocket had narrowly missed their homes as it fell to earth, slamming instead into a nearby hillside. The piece, measuring about 10.3 m long and 4.5 m across, reminds Long March 3B payload fairing (Credit: SCMP Pictures):

Shortly before the mission, APT Satellite Company Ltd. reportedly signed a $180 million contract with CASC to make APStar-6C satellite and launch it in the first half of 2018 in order to replace current APStar-6 at 134° East. The satellite to be featured 26 C-band and19 Ku/Ka-band transponders. The mission is expected to be conducted from Xichang Satellite Launch Center using Long March 3B vehicle.

APStar-6C satellite contract signing ceremony. Credit: China Spaceflight
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In addition, Via Satellite reported that APT Satellite Company Ltd. wants to include more high throughput payloads on future satellites and sees mobility markets growing in importance. Huang Baozhong, vice-president of the company, told that the operator has more spacecraft planned and is interested in having High Throughput Satellite (HTS) capabilities on many of them.

“We have plans for additional spacecraft beyond Apstar 9 and the Apstar 5 replacement. Details of the future satellite are still to be finalized, but one thing is for sure: we will have also HTS payload in the future satellites.” Huang Baozhong, vice-president of APT Satellite Company Ltd.

HTS is on the rise in Asia, as many operators consider leveraging advanced satellites, Via Satellite continues. Research firm Norther Sky Research forecasts geostationary HTS will bring roughly 300 Gbps of HTS supply to Asia by 2020 in one of its latest reports.

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