PARIS — Satellite fleet operator APT Satellite Holdings is purchasing an Apstar 7B satellite from Thales Alenia Space to ensure capacity in the event the Apstar 7 satellite now under construction fails to enter service in mid-2012, Hong Kong-based APT said.

The company has agreed to launch Apstar 7B aboard a Chinese Long March rocket in late 2012 in a contract that features an unusual guarantee that, if Apstar learns that another commercial customer negotiates more-favorable launch terms, Apstar will be granted the same lower-price offer.

In a filing with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, APT says that on April 23 it contracted with Thales Alenia Space of France and Italy to build Apstar 7B in a deal valued at 112.3 million euros ($148.7 million) including the satellite control center.

Apstar 7B will carry 28 C-band and 23 Ku-band transponders on Thales Alenia Space’s Spacebus 4000 C2 platform and is expected to weigh about 4,000 kilograms at launch. The satellite will resemble the Apstar 7 satellite — but with five fewer Ku-band transponders — that Thales Alenia Space is building under a September 2009 contract valued at 128.5 million euros.

Related Article: Thales Alenia Space Lands Apstar 7 Contract

Apstar 7B will be launched from China’s Xichang Satellite Launch Center aboard an enhanced Long March 3B rocket under a contract with China Great Wall Industry Corp. (CGWIC) of Beijing valued at $67 million. The Apstar 7 launch contract was valued at $68 million.

The contract, also signed April 23, stipulates that Apstar may demand a lower price if it learns that CGWIC has negotiated more-favorable terms with any other commercial customer, in which case CGWIC would give APT the same price.

Apstar 7 is scheduled for launch by CGWIC in the first half of 2012 to replace the aging Apstar 2R satellite at 76.5 degrees east in geostationary orbit. The Apstar 7B contract is viewed as insurance against the possible loss of Apstar7 at launch or in its first weeks in orbit.

If Apstar 7 is successfully placed into service, the Apstar 7B contract will be transferred to China Satcom, a state-owned satellite operator in Beijing, which also needs new capacity but not as quickly as APT.

APT has 45 days from the contract’s signature to secure approval of the Apstar 7B program from its independent shareholders. The 45-day waiting period is required by Hong Kong Stock Exchange law given the size of the Apstar 7B financial commitment relative to APT, and given the interlocking ownership of APT, China Satcom and CGWIC.

China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. (CASC) owns 100 percent of CGWIC and also owns China Satcom. CASC has a 57.14 percent stake in APT International, which in turn owns 51.82 percent of APT.

APT says in its stock-market filing, dated April 26, that it is highly unlikely that the independent shareholders reviewing the Apstar 7B contract will find fault with it. The company says it negotiated the Apstar 7B launch deal “on an arm’s-length basis, having regard to the value of similar assets on the market.”


Peter B. de Selding was the Paris bureau chief for SpaceNews.