Published: Sunday 31 March 1996

China's space programme received a setback with the explosion of a Loug March 313 rocket carrying a us satellite, Intelsat 708. China suspended all satellite launches' after the blast, which killed four people. The suspension is likely to delay the launch of two satellites, Dongfang 3 for China and the Apstar IA for a Hong-Kong-based company, APT Satellite.

According to the launch operator of Apstar IA, Great Wall Industry Corp, the satellite was scheduled to be launched this month. Dong- fang 3 and China Sat, slated for launch in July, are crucial to China's infrastructure. Serious delays in their launch could stall the modernisation of the country's broadcast and telecommunications sector. Great Wall has eight or nine launches scheduled for this year and long delays could send reverberations across the global telecommunications market.

Meanwhile, close on the, heels of the rocket blast, a Chinese satellite, FSW1 which has gone out of control, is expected to crash on earth or iii sea anytime this month.

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