On 3rd May 2018, China launched the Apstar-6C communications satellite, thereby placing the 5-metric-ton satellite successfully into the geostationary-transfer orbit.
The Long March 3B launch vehicle left from the Launch Complex 2 located at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center, present in southwest China at 6 minutes past noon, Eastern, in keeping with the airspace closure notices that had been published a couple of days in advance. After about an hour, the successful launch of the satellite was declared by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC).
Setting an impressive record, this was the thirteenth launch of 2018 for China and the fifth one that took place from Xichang, where 17 launches are supposed to take place this year. These launches are mostly concerned with positioning satellites and Beidou navigation.
Apstar-6C is the fourth addition to satellites that are fully functional, owned by the APT Satellite, Hong Kong, and operator of the Apstar constellation. It is responsible for providing coverage to the Asia-Pacific region and surrounding areas.
The Apstar-6C satellite was developed by China Academy of Space Technology (CAST), a maker of satellites and spacecrafts under CASC, which is China’s space program’s primary contractor. The space-craft is based out of a DFH-4 platform. It incorporates 45 transponders in Ku, Ka and C bands and is capable of providing service for 15 years.
The spacecraft is purportedly replacing the Apstar-6 satellite, supplying high-power transponder functions for services like broadband internet access, video distribution, and cellular backhaul, as stated by researchers in APT satellite.
APT has reportedly signed a delivery agreement with China Great Wall Industry Corp. (CGWIC), belonging to CASC, on 17th October 2015. On the very same day, China launched the Apstar-9 communications satellite, based on a DFH-4 platform.
The contracting party had to submit the contract for it to be reviewed by an independent body, per the rules followed by Honk Kong Stock Exchange, as CASC (which owns CAST and CGWIC) has a majority stake in APT.
CASC has planned 36 potential launches in 2018, and other evolving non-government launch providers have the capability of increasing China's orbital launches to above 40 the next year.
The missions that China has lined up next are the Gaofen-5 high-resolution Earth observation satellite. It is supposed to be launched on 8th may 2018 from Taiyuan and the '"Queqiao" communications relay satellite for the Chang'e-4 lunar far side mission.