Algeria launches first communications satellite

Monday 11 December 2017 | 09:14 CET | News

The Chinese-built telecom satellite for Algeria successfully launched on 10 December, aboard a Long March 3B rocket, heading toward a perch more than 22,000 miles over the equator to provide television broadcasts, broadband Internet, remote education and emergency communications services, Spaceflight Now reported. The Alcomsat 1 spacecraft rode a Chinese Long March 3B rocket into orbit from the Xichang space center in Sichuan province, a mountainous launch base in the southwestern part of the country. 

The 184-foot-tall (56-meter) Long March 3B launcher lifted off at 11:40hrs on 10 December from Xichang and headed southeast, dropping its four liquid-fueled strap-on boosters around two minutes, twenty seconds, into the mission. The rocket took off at 12.40 pm on 11 December Beijing time. Similar to China’s other foreign satellite deals, CGWIC built the satellite and provided the launch vehicle, sidestepping manufacturing and rocket restrictions tied to US components, which are in most other commercial telecom satellites.

US International Traffic in Arms Regulations, or ITAR, prevent US-built satellites and those with certain U.S. components from launching on Chinese rockets, blocking most non-Chinese satellites from launching on Chinese rockets.  Another similarity to previous CGWIC deals: Alcomsat-1 is the buyer’s first telecommunications satellite. The Algerian Space Agency (ASAL) will operate Alcomsat-1, which has a design life of fifteen years. The Long March 3B’s first stage shut down and separated moments later, and liquid-fueled second and third stage engines continued pushing the rocket toward orbit. 

Alcomsat 1’s on-board engine will circularize its orbit over the equator in the next two weeks, settling the satellite in geostationary orbit over the equator at 24.8 degrees west longitude. In that orbit, the spacecraft’s velocity will match the rate of Earth’s rotation, allowing Alcomsat 1 to hover in the same position in the sky for fixed ground-based antennas.

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