HONG KONG (Nov 28, 1995 - 08:50 EST) - A Chinese Long March 2E rocket carrying an Asian communications satellite blasted off successfully on Tuesday from a remote launch site in southwestern China, an AsiaSat executive said in Hong Kong.
The US$200 million AsiaSat-2 was the first commercial satellite sent up from China's main launch centre in Xichang, Sichuan Province, since an Apstar satellite aboard a Long March 2E rocket exploded in January.
"We are very pleased to announce the successful injection of AsiaSat-2 into the low earth orbit and the successful separation of the rocket and payload," said Peter Jackson, chief executive of Asia Satelitte Telecommunications Co Ltd (AsiaSat) in a statement released in Hong Kong.
Pre-launch jitters were intense as a result of the January explosion, AsiaSat executives said.
The launch was postponed twice causing a delay of nine months. China and the manufacturer of the ill-fated Hughes Space and Communications Inc satellite blamed windshear for the explosion just 50 seconds after liftoff.
Unlike the Apstar launch, broadcast live on Chinese television, AsiaSat-2's launch was a low-key affair.
AsiaSat executives tracking it in Hong Kong had to telephone their counterparts in Xichang for news of the liftoff. It would take several days before the AsiaSat-2 launch, which will be tracked from the Alpha Telemetry Tracking and Control Station in New Jersey, is completed and declared a success or failure.
AsiaSat-2's original launch, set for March, was postponed pending an investigation into the cause of a failure involving U.S. telecommunications giant AT&T in late 1994.
The AT&T's rocket launch was successful but the company was unable to make contact with its Martin Marietta Corp-built satellite when it reached orbit.
A rescheduled date for AsiaSat-2's debut in August was put back until November while engineers reviewed the investigations into the January explosion.
AsiaSat said the Chinese rocketmaker, Great Wall Industry Corp, had strengthened the fairing, or nose section, of the Long March 2E ahead of the launch.
From its geostationary orbit of 100.5 degrees east, AsiaSat-2, a Lockheed Martin 7000-series, will cover 53 countries in Asia.
Its footprint was designed to range across Australasia, east Asia, the Indian sub-continent, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and parts of the former Soviet Union.
Customers include STAR TV, owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, Associated Press's television arm APTV, Portugal-based Marconi Global Communications and Worldwide Television News (WTN).
Also awaiting news of the launch were Hongkong Telecommunications Ltd, Germany's Deutsche Welle, Pacific Century Group and Malaysia's TIME Telecommunications Sdn Bhd, owned by Renong Group.
AsiaSat is equally owned by Hong Kong's Hutchison Whampoa Ltd, state-owned China International Trust and Investment Corp (CITIC) and Cable Wireless Plc.
The consortium plans a third satellite launch in 1997.
AsiaSat-1 was launched in 1990 from Xichang in China's debut
in the commercial satellite launch industry.