Bolivia Orders Chinese Telecom Satellite

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PARIS — China’s satellite and launch-services export company on Dec. 14 announced it had signed a contract with the Bolivian government to launch a telecommunications satellite into a Bolivia-registered orbital slot in late 2013.

Beijing-based China Great Wall Industry Corp. said the contract, which was expected, was signed Dec. 13 in La Paz, Bolivia, by Bolivian Space Agency (ABE) Executive Director Ivan Zambrana and China Great Wall President Yin Liming.

The Tupak Katari Satellite, or TKSat-1, named after an 18th century Bolivian national who led a rebellion against the Spanish presence in Bolivia, will be based on China’s DFH-4 telecommunications satellite platform and will carry 30 transponders.

The satellite, which is the sixth export order for satellites booked by China, will be launched aboard a Chinese Long March 3B/E rocket operated from China’s Xichang Satellite Launch Center.

China Great Wall said the China Development Bank has agreed to provide a commercial loan to Bolivia for the project’s costs, which in the past have been estimated at around $300 million including satellite construction, launch, insurance, ground facilities and training of Bolivian personnel. China Great Wall said the China Satellite Launch & Tracking Control General will oversee development of the TKSat-1 ground infrastructure.

Bolivia had created ABE with the Chinese contract in mind and had been negotiating with China Great Wall since 2008. A letter of intent between the two parties was signed in April. Bolivian authorities met repeatedly with International Telecommunication Union (ITU) regulators in 2009 to preserve Bolivia’s rights to an orbital slot.

China Great Wall has in recent years signed two contracts with the Nigerian government for telecommunications satellites, with the second coming after the first satellite failed in orbit. It has also built Venezuela’s Venesat-1 spacecraft and is manufacturing one satellite each for the governments of Laos and Pakistan.