China Great Wall Places Bulk Order for Rockets, Satellites

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PARIS — China Great Wall Industry Corp. on Nov. 16 signed agreements with the manufacturer of China’s Long March rockets and the builder of China’s telecommunications satellites covering the construction of 20 Long March 3A vehicles and eight telecommunications satellite platforms, the company said.

The bulk purchase deals, which carry a combined value of 15 billion Chinese yuan ($2.26 billion), cover deliveries over the next five years and are intended to further shorten the time between the signing of a contract and the delivery of a satellite into orbit, China Great Wall said.

The eight satellites ordered from the China Academy of Space Technology are all DFH-4 platforms, which is China’s principal telecommunications satellite model and the one used to win export orders, and generic components for satellite payloads that will be required by most customers.

The 20 Long March rockets covered by the order with the Chinese Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology will be Long March 3A rockets. This three-stage vehicle, operating from Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China’s Sichuan Province, is used to transport telecommunications satellites into geostationary-transfer orbit. The weight of the satellite payload and its orbital destination governs how many liquid strap-on boosters are added to provide more power.

Chinese authorities have said that for domestic purposes alone, they would need eight to 10 Long March rockets per year given the growth of China’s government space program. Current vehicle production capacity, they said, is 10 rockets per year.

The company said in its statement that the bulk purchase of rockets and satellites “is a significant measure to realize [China Aerospace Corp.’s] target to acquire a 10 percent market share in the communications satellite market in 2015, and 15 percent in the commercial launch market.”

The agreements were signed Nov. 16 by China Great Wall Industry Corp. President Yin Liming at Airshow China 2010 held in Zhuhai.

In response to Space News inquiries, China Great Wall said in a Nov. 18 statement that the satellite order includes “commonly used and long-lead items for the payload” of satellites to be built for future international customers. “The purpose is to reduce the cost and delivery time,” the statement said. Construction of each satellite’s antennas will await customer-specific requirements.

“It is the first time that we have placed such orders with our subcontractors,” the Nov. 18 statement said. “This significant milestone is not only good for our development, but also beneficial to our customers in many aspects, such as schedule and quality assurance.”

China has been prevented from gaining full access to the global commercial market because of U.S. technology-export restrictions in effect since 1999. Often known as ITAR, or International Traffic in Arms Regulations, the restrictions bar export of U.S. satellites, and most U.S.-built satellite components, to China.

China has nonetheless been able to keep a hand in the commercial market through arrangements with several nations that have purchased DFH-4-model telecommunications satellites and a Long March rocket at the same time.