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China Looks To Boost Satellite Manufacturing With DFH-4 Line


PARIS — The first of a new line of high-power telecommunications satellites produced in China and already sold to two export customers is scheduled for launch in late October for China’s Sinosat direct-broadcast television provider, Chinese space officials said.

The Sinosat-2 satellite, the first of the DFH-4 spacecraft built by the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST), has faced several delays but is now expected to be launched in the coming weeks by a Chinese Long March 3B rocket from China’s Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China’s Sichuan Province.

If it functions as planned, the DFH-4 satellite design will bring China’s domestic satellite manufacturing industry closer to the level of its U.S., European and Japanese counterparts.

DFH-4 is the third generation of China-built telecommunications spacecraft and carries some 800 kilograms of payload — four times the capacity of the previous Chinese product, the DFH-3. Weighing up to 5,300 kilograms at launch, the DFH-4 platform is built to operate for 15 years — double the DFH-3’s life expectancy — and provide up to 10 kilowatts of power at the end of its service life.

Zhou Zhicheng and Li Feng of CAST, in a presentation to the 57th International Astronautical Congress held Oct. 2-6 in Valencia, Spain, said the DFH-4 eventually will be able to produce 14 kilowatts of power.

“CAST will become a strong player in the multibillion-dollar international market to satisfy the growing demand for communications needs of the world community,” the CAST team said in a presentation made by Wang Min. “CAST wishes to become one of the world’s leading designers, manufacturers and integrators of powerful satellites and satellite systems.”

Wang said CAST has tested the DFH-4 design to a maximum capacity of 54 transponders, 38 in Ku-band and 16 in C-band. The satellite’s upper limit would be around 5,600 kilograms, he said in the presentation.

CAST built six DFH-2 and DFH-2A model satellites that were launched between 1984 and 1991. Wang said that, apart from a 1991 launch that ended in failure, all the satellites worked as forecast.

Seven DFH-3 spacecraft have been launched since 1997, the most recent being the second flight model of the Chinasat-22 satellite that reached orbit in September.

The DFH-3 platform also was used for China’s Beidou regional navigation satellites.

The DFH-4 line has been in development since 2002. Its qualification in orbit with Sinosat-2 is likely to reduce China’s demand for outside expertise, most recently from Alcatel Alenia Space of France and Italy, in building large telecommunications spacecraft.

Alcatel Alenia Space has been working with CAST and Chinese satellite telecommunications operators since the mid-1980s, beginning with the supply of on board components and the training of Chinese aerospace engineers at the company’s production facilities in France. More recently the company has provided full satellite systems, signing contracts with China Satellite Communications Corp. for the Chinasat 9 and Chinasat 6B spacecraft.

U.S. government technology-export restrictions effectively prohibit U.S. satellite and satellite-component manufacturers from selling products to Chinese government-affiliated organizations, and from selling any such hardware to be launched on Chinese rockets.

Completion of the DFH-4 research and development program now makes China a seller of satellite systems and no longer just a buyer.

CAST and the China Great Wall Industry Corp. in 2004 signed a satellite manufacturing and launch contract with the National Space Research and Development Agency of Nigeria for the in-orbit delivery of the Nigcomsat-1 satellite.

Nigcomsat-1, carrying a mixed Ku-, Ka- and C-band payload, as well as a navigation package, is scheduled for launch in 2007.

China in 2005 signed a contract with the Venezuelan government for the Venesat-1 telecommunications satellite, to be launched in 2008. The satellite carries Ku-, C- and Ka-band transponders.

Zhang Wei, director-general of the China National Space Administration’s department of foreign affairs, said Oct. 3 that the contract with Venezuela is firm and the satellite is under construction.

Sinosat Communications Co. Ltd. of Beijing will use the first DFH-4 satellite mainly for Ku-band television and broadband multimedia services in mainland China.

The satellite carries 18 36-megahertz Ku-band transponders and four 54-megahertz Ku-band transponders.

Sinosat-2 will be China’s first direct-to-home television satellite and will operate at the 92.2 degrees east orbital slot. A Sinosat-3 satellite is currently under design, according to Sinosat.