APT Orders New Satellite as Apstar-9 Reaches Orbit

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PARIS — Satellite fleet operator APT Satellite Holdings of Hong Kong has contracted with China Great Wall Industry Corp. to build, launch and insure an Apstar-6C satellite for launch in mid-2018 in a contract valued at $180 million.

The contract was signed on the same day, Oct. 17, as APT’s Apstar-9 was successfully placed into geostationary transfer orbit by a Chinese Long March 3B rocket operating from China’s Xichang spaceport in Sichuan Province.

The China Academy of Space Technology (CAST) said the 5,250-kilogram Apstar-9 was placed into an orbit with an apogee of 41,965 kilometers and a perigee of 212 kilometers, and was healthy in orbit and sending signals.

APT will operate Apstar-9’s 32 C-band and 14 Ku-band transponders at 142 degrees east longitude, where it will replace the Apstar-9A. The satellite is designed to deliver 7.5 kilowatts of power to its payload.

China Satcom of China had agreed to provide the aging Chinasat-5A satellite to APT to preserve the 142 degrees east orbital slot while waiting for the arrival of APT-9, in return for a $3 million payment.

As part of the $211 million Apstar-9 in-orbit-delivery contract, China Great Wall and CAST had agreed to an aggressive construction schedule of 24 months. The deadline was met, which may in part explain why APT contracted for Apstar-6C without waiting for Apstar-9 to be fully tested in orbit.

Apstar-9 and Apstar-6C are both DFH-4-model satellites. While China Satcom and several one-satellite emerging nations have purchased the product, APT was the first established fleet operator outside mainland China to purchase one.

In an Oct. 18 regulatory filing with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, APT said the purchase of Apstar-6C, like the Apstar-9 contract, will be reviewed by an independent outside committee to be sure the terms are fair to APT.

The China Aerospace and Technology Corp. (CASC), which owns CAST and China Great Wall, has a majority equity stake in APT, which under Hong Kong Stock Exchange rules obliges the contracting party to submit the contract for review to an independent committee.

Under the contract, a Chinese Long March 3B rocket will place Apstar-6C into geostationary transfer orbit in the first half of 2018. A down payment of $5.4 million is due within a week of the contract’s signature, with $158.4 million to be paid out in regular increments during the satellite’s construction through its launch.

A final payment of $16.2 million is due within 30 days of in-orbit delivery of the spacecraft. APT will be withholding $8 million of the contract’s value as an in-orbit performance incentive, to be paid once Apstar-6C has demonstrated smooth in-orbit functioning.

The contracted launch date is May 1, 2018. Late-delivery penalties begin 30 days after the contracted delivery date and amount to between $50,000 and $90,000 per day. After 90 days, damages rise to $120,000 a day, with ceiling of $8 million in total damages.

Apstar-6C will carry 26 C-band transponders and a total of 19 Ku- and Ka-band transponders, APT said.