China launches radio, TV satellite

China launched a new communications satellite into orbit to provide broader radio and television signal coverage across the country, state media, quoted by an Associated Press report, said.

The Associated Press report said the Long March-3A rocket lifted off from the Xichang launching center in southwestern China eight minutes after midnight and separated from the SinoSat-3 satellite 24 minutes later, the Xinhua News Agency said.

The long-scheduled launch follows the failed deployment last October of another communications satellite, SinoSat-2, whose solar panels and communications antennae did not operate properly, Xinhua said.

China has spent decades building an indigenous space program and is trying to attract customers from abroad, after a series of failed launches in the 1990s dampened demand for Chinese launch services, the report said.

Both the rocket and the satellite were mainly developed and manufactured domestically, Xinhua said.

The satellite was not developed as a replacement for the inoperable SinoSat-2, Xinhua said, though Sino Satellite Communications, the satellite's operators, may use SinoSat-3 to replace part of the service the other satellite was to have provided, the report said.