Launch of Chinasat 12 Gives Sri Lanka Orbital Foothold

by

LONDON — China’s Long March 3B rocket successfully placed the 5,100-kilogram Chinasat 12/SupremeSat 1 telecommunications satellite into transfer orbit Nov. 27, which will be jointly owned by China Satcom and Sri Lanka’s new satellite company, SupremeSat, the two companies announced.

Built by Thales Alenia Space of France and Italy, the satellite carries 23 Ku-band and 24 C-band transponders and will be operated at China’s 81.5 degrees east orbital slot. It is the 13th satellite to be operated by Beijing-based China Satellite Communications Co. Ltd., known as China Satcom.

China Satcom said Chinasat 12 was separated from the Long March 3B into a transfer orbit with a perigee of 207 kilometers and an apogee of 50,539 kilometers.

The Sri Lankan government, in a Nov. 28 statement, said the launch is a milestone on the way to having its own satellite system. The Chinese-backed $320 million SupremeSat project includes development of a $60 million “Space Academy” in Sri Lanka in addition to access to the spacecraft’s capacity for telecommunications and broadband service in Sri Lanka.

New York law firm Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy is the Sri Lankan government’s legal and financial adviser for the project.

SupremeSat, which was created by the Sri Lankan government, intends to co-own one more satellite with China Satcom, SupremeSat 2, to be launched in 2013 into the 98 degrees east orbital slot. This satellite will be a DFH-4 design built by the China Academy of Space Technology.

By late 2015, SupremeSat plans to fully own a satellite, also built by China, to occupy the 50 degrees east orbital slot.

The Sri Lankan government, in its announcement of the launch, played down the ownership role of China Satcom in the project. Similarly, China Satcom did not reference any Sri Lankan ownership in its post-launch statement.

“The launch of this satellite will be the beginning of more such ventures that will help promote Foreign Direct Investment, increase export earnings to the country, and help greatly in the transfer of technology within and outside this Region,” Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa said in a statement.

The Sri Lankan government statement said Sri Lanka now becomes the third South Asian nation, after India and Pakistan, to have “their own satellites in orbit.” Sri Lanka is one of a half-dozen nations, including Pakistan, to lean on Chinese technology and financing to develop their national telecommunications satellite systems.