New military communications satellite to be launched

A new communications satellite, named Chinasat 1A, is due to be launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre (XSLC) on 19 September aboard a Changzheng 3B booster. It is believed that the satellite is for military purposes, possibly a replacement to the Fenghuo 1 (Chinasat 22A) tactical COMSAT launched in 2006. This will be the first military communications satellite to be based on the DFH-4 design. Its military designation may be Fenghuo 2.

The Chinasat designation has been used by the China Satellite Communications Co. Ltd., a subside of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), for its fleet of China and foreign-built commercial telecommunications satellites. However, the designation has also been frequently used by China’s military communications satellites as a disguise. For example, Chinasat 22 for the Fenghuo 1 series and Chinasat 20 for the Shentong 1 series, both of which were based on the Dongfanghong 3 satellite design introduced in the 1990s.

Development of the new generation communications satellite Dongfanghong 4 began in 2000 and the first launch took place in 2006. However, the programme suffered initial failure, with the first two satellites both out of service shortly after launch due to solar panel malfunction. The subsequent four launches were all successful following some modifications on the satellite design.

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