Tim Furniss/LONDON

CHINA HAS LOST another important satellite launch contract with the decision by US communications company Echostar to switch its Echostar 3 communications satellite from the Long March (LM) 3B booster to an ILS International Launch Services Atlas 2AS vehicle.

A new launch date, of September-November 1997, has been scheduled for the satellite. ILS is a US/Russian consortium involving Lockheed Martin, Energia and Khrunichev.

The Lockheed Martin Astro Space-built Echostar 3 is the fourth spacecraft to be moved from China's dwindling launch contract list, after the failure of the the first LM3B on 14 February (Flight International, 3-9 April, P93).

The transfer of the Echostar 2, also built by Lockheed, from the LM3B to an Ariane 4 was confirmed by Arianespace on 30 April. The satellite is destined to fly aboard an Ariane 42P in September (Flight International, 27 March-2 April, P24).

ILS also confirmed on 24 April that Lockheed-built Intelsat 804 and 805 satellites, originally scheduled as LM3B payloads, have been switched to ILS Atlas 2AS boosters in 1998. The Intelsat 708 was lost in the LM3B failure.

Earlier, Hong Kong-based Asiasat said that it would not award a launch contract for the flight of the recently ordered Asiasat 3 to a Chinese vehicle.

China has six commercial geostationary-orbit (GEO) satellite launches remaining, including the imminent flight of the ApStar 1A aboard an LM3. One of the six claimed contracts, the Nahuel 1, is also manifested on an Ariane. Two others are for satellites to be operated by Chinese-led consortia.

The new Intelsat launch contracts for ILS bring to 22 the outstanding payloads for the Atlas, ten of which are for commercial, civil, GEO satellites and the rest for military and government payloads. ILS also operates Russia's Proton, which has seven contracts for GEO satellite launches.

The contract to launch the Echostar 2 brings to 43 the number of craft to be launched by Arianespace. Ariane flight V86 is scheduled to launch Israel's first communications satellite, the Amos, and the Palapa C2 for PT Satelindo of Indonesia on 16 May.

An ILS Atlas 1 launched the Alenia-built, 1,400kg Italian-Dutch Small X-Ray Astronomy satellite (SAX) into orbit from Cape Canaveral on 30 April.

The first Ariane 5 launcher vehicle was rolled out to its launch pad ELA 3 at Kourou, Guiana, on 24 April, in preparation for its 25 May maiden flight.

Echostar switches to Atlas launcher

Source: Flight International