Satellite plans come down to earth

Hardware has had problems with antennae, solar array

China has announced that it will launch a replacement for failed broadcast satellite SinoSat-2 in the first half of next year.

SatSino-2, launched at the end of October, has had problems since early November with its antennae and solar array, making broadcasting and telecommunications services impossible, according to owner/operator Sino Satellite Communications Co.

The satellite was designed to carry direct-to-home TV signals to remote areas of the country that have little or no TV coverage. It also would have supplied live television and digital broadband systems in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan for the next 15 years.

Fan Xingmin, a spokesman for SinoSat, told state news wire Xinhua, “If SinoSat-2 cannot be restored, it has to be pushed out of orbit to leave room for its substitute.”

He went on to defend SinoSat against accusations that the venture has been a costly flop: Some insiders estimate that losses over the next five years could top $12 billion.

“High risks are characteristic of the space industry. Many other satellite operators in China and overseas have suffered similar mishaps before,” he said.

However, Xinhua also reports that the manufacturer, the Chinese Research Institute of Space Technology, still believes the problem may be fixable.

SinoSat has already announced plans to launch a replacement satellite, SinoSat-3, in the first half of 2007, with the date tentatively set for May, according to Fan, who said, “The company is drafting a replacement plan. The substitute satellite will not be a carbon copy of the previous one and we are expecting more technical upgrades.”