China to launch second African satellite

Updated: 2012-11-18 07:16

By Zhao Lei in Zhuhai, Guangdong (China Daily)

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China Great Wall Industry Corp will launch the Democratic Republic of the Congo's first satellite, which will also be developed by China, before the end of 2015, according to a contract signed on Saturday.

The Chinese company is the country's only authorized provider of commercial satellite launch services for international clients.

The contract for CongoSat 1, a communications satellite to be developed and manufactured by the China Academy of Space Technology for the National Network of Satellite Telecommunications of the African country, was inked in Zhuhai, Guangdong province.

The signing was on the sidelines of the Ninth China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition, also known as the Zhuhai Airshow.

The contract shows the CongoSat 1 design will be based on the DFH 4 satellite platform, capable of covering the Democratic Republic of the Congo and all the central and southern parts of the African continent through the advanced transponders installed on the satellite.

China will build ground control and training facilities and will train satellite-control personnel for the client.

China Telecom, one of the country's biggest telecommunications companies, will also play an active role in the project by upgrading the operation system and providing management services to the network.

The deal marks the second time that China has exported a satellite to African nations, following the NigComSat 1,

another communications satellite that was launched for Nigeria in May 2007 by Great Wall.

"Today is a big day, a historic day, for us," Richard Achinda Wahilungula, director-general of the Congolese network, said after signing the contract.

"China has abundant experience in satellites and telecommunication. We came here because China can help us develop a satellite and telecommunication, and we never contacted anyone else for this project."

"Compared with Western nations, China's satellite technology may arguably not be the most advanced, but it definitely suits the demand of Africa. China has reduced African countries' satellite operation costs and trained a great number of professionals for us," said Bode Agusto, who was senior budget adviser to former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo, according to an earlier report from Xinhua News Agency.

China Great Wall Industry Corp has completed three international contracts in 2012, including the launch of VesselSat 2 for European space systems contractor LuxSpace and VRSS 1, a remote-sensing satellite for Venezuela. By the end of this year it will conduct two more launches for international clients.

China has been providing launch services to international clients since 1990, when a communications satellite was sent into space on a Long March 3 booster.

As of now, Great Wall has launched 35 rockets carrying a total of 41 satellites for foreign clients. It has also provided seven piggyback launch services to foreign clients.

"With the support of the central government and the public, our aerospace industry has enjoyed rapid development during the past years," said Lei Fanpei, deputy general manager of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp, parent company of the China Great Wall Industry Corp. Despite the grim global economy, he said, China's aerospace industry has maintained an annual growth rate of 12 percent.

In addition to the African country, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and two Hong Kong-based satellite companies also signed service contracts with Great Wall.

According to China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp, China aims to take up 10 percent of the international satellite market and 15 percent in the world's commercial launch field by the end of 2015.