China Great Wall Industry has negotiated a $180 million loan from the Bank of China to support plans to launch up to 15 international commercial satellites built by US companies Loral and Hughes. The fund raising exercise pushes to $882 million the amount in loans that the company has raised from the bank since 1990.

Loral has five launch options with China, while Hughes has four reservations and five options. The one firm Chinese launch contract with Hughes is for a satellite being constructed for Asia Pacific Mobile Telecommunications. The HS-GEM, model AMPT 1, satellite is manifested for a Long March 3B launch in 2000.

Hughes, however, is having to lobby the Clinton Administration for permission to proceed with the satellite deal after recent concern was expressed by Congress over technology transfers that could help the Chinese military. The company has warned that a delay beyond the end of the month could kill the transaction, costing Hughes at least $100 million and risking the loss of up to 1,000 jobs in supporting industries. Satellite user AMPT says that one option is to find another supplier.

Hughes emphasises that the AMPT 1 will carry mostly civilian connections to 16,000 mobile telephones across the Asian footprint, offering only slight benefit to the Chinese military. The Clinton Administration granted licences for the AMPT 1 in 1996, but is re-examining the issue because minor technical changes have since been made to the satellite. The original contract with Hughes was for two satellites worth $450 million.

Source: Flight International