A Long March rocket launched an advanced communications satellite on Friday for a Hong Kong-based operator.
The APSTAR-6C was atop a Long March 3B carrier rocket that blasted off at 12:06 a.m. from Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan province, according to a statement from China Great Wall Industry Corp in Beijing, prime contractor on the project.
The satellite was designed and manufactured by the China Academy of Space Technology based on the DFH-4 satellite design. With a design life of 15 years, it is equipped with 45 transponders in C, Ku and Ka bands. It will provide regional communications and broadcasting services to users in the Asia-Pacific, the statement said. The launch marked the 273rd flight of the Long March rocket family.
APSTAR-6C's user, APT Satellite in Hong Kong, now has five communications satellites including the latest one, the second in the firm's satellite fleet made in the mainland.
The company's first mainland-made satellite was APSTAR-9, which was also developed by the China Academy of Space Technology based on the DFH-4 and launched in October 2015 by a Long March 3B rocket. It is capable of covering China, South and Southeast Asia, Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii.
Wei Qiang, chief designer at the space technology academy, said APSTAR-6C is the most technically sophisticated and most powerful satellite in the DFH-4 family. The academy is developing the APSTAR-6D based on an enhanced version of DFH-4 for the Hong Kong operator, he said.
The oldest DFH-4-based communications satellite still operating has been in orbit for more than nine years, said China Great Wall, which added that the reliability and capability of the DFH-4 has been recognized by international satellite operators.
China first delivered a communications satellite to an overseas buyer in 2007 when the NigcomSat-1 was launched and then handed over to Nigeria. Since then, the country has exported communications satellites to nations including Venezuela, Pakistan, Bolivia and Laos.
China has planned at least 40 space missions this year, doubling the number in 2017 and setting a record for the nation.
The most eye-catching will be the third flight of China's largest carrier rocket－Long March 5, whose last mission failed in July－and the Chang'e 4 lunar landing mission to put a robotic probe on the far side of the moon.