Thales Alenia Space Lands Apstar 7 Contract

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PARIS — Thales Alenia Space will build the Apstar 7 telecommunications satellite for APT Satellite Holdings Ltd. of Hong Kong under a contract valued at 128.5 million euros ($187.9 million), the companies announced Oct. 1. APT has not yet contracted for the satellite’s launch, but Apstar 7 will be a so-called ITAR-free satellite — meaning it will contain no U.S.-made components — and thus could be launched aboard China’s Long March rocket.

Apstar 7 will be a Spacebus 4000 C2 platform carrying 28 C-band and 28 Ku-band transponders. It will replace the Apstar 2R satellite at 76.5 degrees east, which a Long March 3B rocket placed into orbit in October 1997. Apstar 2R was built by Space Systems/Loral of Palo Alto, Calif., and delivered to China before U.S. technology-export regulations were tightened to prohibit the export of U.S. spacecraft to China.

In seeking bids for construction of Apstar 7, APT had asked that the satellite be compatible with several launch vehicles, including China’s Long March. Among U.S. and European satellite prime contractors, Thales Alenia Space of France and Italy is alone in having developed a commercial satellite that contains no U.S. parts covered by the U.S. International Traffic in Arms Regulations, or ITAR, which govern exports of defense-related technologies.

In addition to building and delivering the satellite to the launch site, Thales Alenia Space will provide a satellite control center for 1.5 million euros and on-line support for postlaunch satellite operations for 2.2 million euros. With the satellite and other related services priced at 124.8 million euros, the total contract value is 128.5 million euros.

Thales Alenia Space also built APT’s Apstar 6 satellite, which was launched by a Long March 3B in April 2005 and is operating from 134 degrees east.