China to launch hybrid communications satellite

Late last night, China launched the “APStar 6D” telecommunications satellite aboard a Long March 3B/E rocket from the Xichang Space

China CNN

Photo: CNN

Late last night, China launched the “APStar 6D” telecommunications satellite aboard a Long March 3B/E rocket from the Xichang Space Launch Centre in central China.

APStar 6D is the seventh satellite launched by APT Satellite Co., a Hong Kong-based telecommunications company in which the Chinese state holds majority ownership. The launch adds to a growing constellation of Chinese state-backed satellites and international joint ventures, which have boosted China’s market share of telecommunications services throughout North America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific.

Today’s launch indicates that Beijing has discreetly upgraded the operational launch capacity of its workhorse Long March 3B/E rocket, as the vehicle’s published capabilities can barely carry the weight of the APStar 6D payload. This would be the heaviest payload yet launched by the Long March 3 vehicle class; previous APT satellites have launched into geostationary orbit via the 8300-kg capacity SpaceX Falcon 9.

China has placed increased emphasis on its astronautic presence by pushing the cutting edge of its vehicular capabilities and services. As China has captured a growing share of the telecommunications satellite market—a trend reflected in the rise of Huawei—the US and Europe will be hard-pressed to provide cheap and reliable space access, further investment in their domestic telecommunications markets and comparable national security capabilities.

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