Long March 3B carrying commercial Indonesian satellite fails

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WASHINGTON — A Chinese Long March 3B rocket failed April 9 while attempting to launch a commercial communications satellite meant to provide broadcast and broadband services to Indonesia and beyond, according to China’s Xinhua News Agency. 

After lifting off from China’s inland Xichang launch center, the Long March 3B suffered a malfunction with its third stage, destroying Nusantara-2, a satellite China Great Wall Industry Corp. (CGWIC) built for an Indonesian joint venture between Pasifik Satelit Nusantara and Indosat Ooredoo.

The launch failure was China’s second of the year, following that of the Long March 7A in March. 

Nusantara-2, formerly Palapa-N1, was one of the few commercial satellite exports accomplished by China, whose satellite manufacturing and launch activity has mainly served domestic customers. The satellite weighed 5,550 kilograms and carried 20 C-band transponders and a 9.5 Gbps high-throughput Ku-band payload. 

Nusantara-2 was to serve as a replacement for Indosat’s Palapa-D satellite and provide expansion capacity for PSN, which operates the Nusantara-1 satellite. 

Though announced as a DFH-4 satellite, Nusantara-2 was built on an upgraded version of the CGWIC platform called the DFH-4E, which could accommodate a more powerful payload, PSN CEO Adi Adiwoso told SpaceNews in an interview before the launch. 

Johannes Indri, general manager of the joint venture, PSNS, said PSN planned to use the Ku-band capacity for broadband, while Indosat used the C-band for television broadcasting. 

Indosat spokesperson Turina Farouk said two gateway stations were built for Nusantara-2, one each in the Indonesian cities of Medan and Surabaya. The satellite was designed mainly for Indonesia, but with coverage stretching across the Asia Pacific out to Australia. 

Indosat operates the Palapa-C and Palapa-D satellites, and has no others under construction. PSN has another satellite, called SATRIA, under construction by Thales Alenia Space, and was continuing to prepare for a subsequent satellite, Adiwoso said before the launch failure. 

The April 9 Long March 3B failure may have a knock-on effect on the Apstar-6D satellite, which was scheduled for launch on a Long March 3B rocket later this year. 

SpaceNews writer Andrew Jones contributed to this report.