The Hong Kong-based consortium, Asia Satellite Telecommunications Company, has been the most important deregulated private sector enterprise in Hong Kong. The company, which includes China's International Trust and Investment Corporation, Hutchison Whampoa of Hong Kong and Cable and Wireless of Britain, entered the commercial telecommunications market in 1990 with the launch of Asiasat 1. Based on Hughes HS-376 platform, Asiasat 1 had been flown in 1984 as Westar6, but a perigee kick motor malfunction allowed it to be retrieved by the U.S. Shuttle, refurbished, and reflown (see also Indonesia's Palapa B2R). Asiasat 1 marked China's first commercial space launch when a CZ-3 booster placed the spacecraft in a geostationary transfer orbit on 7 April 1990. Asiasat 1 carries 30 low-power, 6/4 GHz transponders of which as many as 24 are active. The on-orbit mass of the satellite at 105.5 degrees E is just over 600 kg.
From its orbital slot above Singapore, Asiasat can service users in China, Japan, Malaysia, Burma, Thailand, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Broadcasting the Star TV service 24 hours a day Asiasat broke through national regulatory structures for television programs. Within the footprint of the satellite, from Kabul to Hokkaido, video, audio, and data signals can be exchanged with the use of three meter dishes.
A more capable Asiasat 2 was launched on 28 November 1995 by a Long March 2E Based on a Lockheed-Martin 7000 spacecraft bus, Asiasat 2 is a 3-axis stabilized with an initial launch mass of 3.5 metric tons and will carry a payload of 24, 55-W, 6/4GHz and 9, 115-W 14/12 GHz transponders. Asiasat 2 will be parked at 100.5 degrees E, following an agreement with Thailand to avoid radio interference. (References 79-82). The in-orbit loss of the AT&T Telstar 402 satellite contributed to a year-long delay in the launch of the similar AsiaSat 2. This delay postponed the inauguration of Rupert Murdoch's Star Network package of 30- digitally encrypted channels of television programming.
The AsiaSat 3 satellite, launched on 25 December 1997 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, did not reach orbit when the upper stage of the Proton rocket failed. The replacement AsiaSat 3S is identical to AsiaSat 3, and is planned for launch in the first quarter of 1999 by a Proton D-1-e. AsiaSat 3S will be a Hughes HS601HP model with a 15-year operational life, carrying 28 C-band and 16 Ku-band high-powered linearised transponders.
In May 1998 Asia Satellite Telecommunications Holdings (AsiaSat) decided to postpone until the year 2000 the launch of AsiaSat 4, due to a decrease in demand for satellite telecommunication services.
79. Asiasat 1 and Asiasat 2 Fact Sheets, Asia Satellite Telecommunications Co., Ltd., undated.
80. "Newsmaker Forum", Space News, 25 April - 1 May 1994, p. 22 and 27 February - 5 March 1995, p. 22.
81. P. Seitz, "Second Asiasat Satellite Eight Months Behind Schedule", Space News, 5-11 June 1995, pp. 3, 29.
82. "Satellite Parking Pact Reached", Aviation Week and Space Technology, 4 October 1993, p.19.