China Launches Bolivia’s First Telecom Satellite

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PARIS — A Chinese Long March 3B rocket on Dec. 21 inaugurated the Bolivian space program by successfully placing Bolivia’s Tupac Katari (TKSat)-1 telecommunications satellite into geostationary transfer orbit, Chinese and Bolivian officials said.

Bolivian President Evo Morales traveled to China to witness the launch, from China’s Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China’s Sichuan Province, indicating the project’s political importance in Bolivia.

Based on China’s DFH-4 satellite frame, or platform — it is the 11th DFH-4 to be launched — TKSat-1 weighed 5,105 kilograms at launch and carries 26 Ku-, two C- and two Ka-band transponders. The satellite platform will provide 7 kilowatts of power to the transponder payload at the end of TKSat-1’s scheduled 15 years of service life.

The satellite will operate at 87.5 degrees west longitude to provide Internet and telecommunications connectivity to the estimated 3.3 million Bolivians in rural areas that are currently not connected to the telecommunications grid, according to the Bolivian Space Agency (ABE), which was created to manage the TKSat-1 project.

ABE said the entire program cost $295.4 million, of which $251.1 million was financed with a loan from the China Development Bank. ABE said the loan is payable over 15 years, with no principal payments due until the fourth year after an initial payment of 0.75 percent of the loan. The annual interest payment is the London Interbank Offered Rate plus 2.7 percent. 

The remaining $44.3 million in project funding came from Bolivia’s general treasury, ABE said.

ABE said TKSat-1 services will generate sufficient revenue to fully cover the project’s cost, which includes the satellite’s construction and launch, insurance and a satellite ground station in Bolivia that Morales recently inaugurated.

While Chinese domestic demand for satellite launches continues to make up most of the business of the China Great Wall Industry Corp., which markets the vehicle, the company has been winning export orders by bundling satellite and launch offers with China-based financing.

Previous customers for DFH-4 telecommunications satellites include the governments of Nigeria, Venezuela and Pakistan. Sri Lanka and Laos are among those with satellites under construction in China.

 

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