Tim Furniss/LONDON

CHINA GREAT WALL Industry (CGWIC) failed to place the Hughes HS-376 ChinaSat 7 communications satellite into the correct geostationary-transfer orbit (GTO) after launch aboard a Long March 3 from Xichang on 18 August.

China Telecommunications Broadcast Satellite's 24-transponder spacecraft was stranded in orbit, with an apogee lower than intended, after the second burn of the third stage of the LM3 stopped 48s earlier than planned. The velocity shortfall, estimated at 475m/s by the Molniya Space Consultancy in London, results in an apogee 18,800km short. It was the third time in its nine flights since 1984 that the LM3's third stage has malfunctioned.

The LM3 had launched the Hughes-built Apstar 1A into GTO on 3 July, restoring some confidence to the Chinese commercial-launcher business following the catastrophic loss of the Intelsat 708 satellite 20s after launch on 14 February. CGWIC lost four launch contracts after this failure of the maiden flight of the LM3B (Flight International, 8-14 May).

An LM3A model is due to launch the national DFH 3 communications satellite into GTO in October, followed by the ApStar 2A and Chinastar aboard LM3Bs in 1997. The commercial launch of the Mabuhay satellite on an LM3C version, in 1997, has been placed in doubt by a pricing disagreement.

Six LM2Cs are due to place Iridium communications satellites into low-Earth orbit, under a commercial contract with Motorola.

Source: Flight International