China launches Algeria’s first comms satellite Alcomsat-1

Image courtesy of CGWIC.

Today, at 00:40 Beijing time (GMT+8), China launched Algeria’s first geostationary communications satellite, Alcomsat-1. The launch took place at China’s Xichang Satellite Launch Center aboard a Long March-3B launch vehicle.

According to the China Great Wall Industry Corporation (CGWIC), the Chinese space programme’s international arm, Alcomsat-1 successfully separated from the Long March 3B approximately 26 minutes after liftoff, and was placed into Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO).

Alcomsat-1 was designed, manufactured, and launched by the Chinese space programme’s commercial arm known as the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC). The satellite has a lift-off mass of 5,225kg and a design life of 15 years, and uses the Dong Fang Hong 4 (DHF-4) bus, which was developed in 2006. It is equipped with 33 operational transponders (19 in Ku-band, 12 in Ka-band and 2 in L-band) onboard, and will be located at 24.8° West. China was also provide Algeria with all the necessary ground station equipment and services.

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Alcomsat-1 was commissioned in 2013 when CGWIC signed a contract with the Algerian Space Agency (ASAL), the first bilateral agreement between the two nations. Aside from China, ASAL has also signed Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) with numerous other space agencies, including the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). ISRO was responsible for launching all of ASAL’s previous satellites except its first one, Alsat-1, which was launched from Russia.

So far, ASAL has launched six satellites, mainly for Earth Observation or research. Aside from Alcomsat-1, all have been small satellites with a mass of approximately 100kg each.

The Long March 3B used in the launch today is China’s second most powerful launch vehicle, with a payload capacity of 6,000kg to GTO. First used in 2007, the Long March 3B has almost the same payload capacity of the newer Long March 7, and has been superseded by the Long March 5, which is designed to carry 14,000kg GTO.


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