China successfully launched its ChinaSat-6E communications satellite into geostationary orbit from Xichang spaceport. The launch took place at 6:23 a.m. Eastern on November 9th, with the Long March 3B rocket delivering the satellite to its planned geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO).
ChinaSat-6E is intended to replace the ChinaSat-6B satellite, which has been in orbit since July 2007. The satellite will primarily be used for radio and television broadcasting and will cover China, Southeast Asia, Australia, and other regions.
This launch is part of China’s efforts to replace aging geostationary satellites. Last year, ChinaSat-6D was launched to replace ChinaSat-6A, which experienced a helium leak after launch. Another replacement satellite, ChinaSat-9C, is expected to launch in 2025.
The ChinaSat-6E satellite is based on the DFH-4E bus, an enhanced version of the DFH-4 geostationary platform developed by the China Academy of Space Technology. It has a mass of approximately 5,500 kilograms and features hybrid electric- and chemical-propulsion. The satellite has an expected mission lifetime of 15 years.
The launch of ChinaSat-6E is also aligned with China’s Belt and Road initiative and the country’s “digital China” strategy. It is seen as part of the space-based infrastructure supporting these initiatives.
China has been actively launching satellites this year, with ChinaSat-6E being the 52nd orbital launch of 2023. The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. (CASC) has stated its goal of launching more than 60 times this year. So far, they have completed 38 launches, with contributions from commercial firms as well.
In addition to ChinaSat-6E, other scheduled launches could include a Shijian recoverable satellite, the Einstein Probe, satellites for developing countries, commercial remote sensing satellites, and the continuation of China’s reconnaissance satellite infrastructure. Landspace and Orienspace are also expected to have their debut launches with their respective rockets.