BEIJING – Bolivia’s first communications satellite vaulted into space Friday atop a Chinese rocket as the Andean nation’s president, Evo Morales, looked on.
The Long March 3B/E rocket carrying the TKSat-1, or Tupac Katari, lifted off at 1642 UTC from China’s Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan province.
The $302 million project was largely financed with a loan from the China Development Bank and the Tupac Katari, named for the leader of an 18th-century indigenous rebellion, was developed from the Chinese-made DFH-4 platform.
China also provided special training for the roughly 80 Bolivian military and civilian personnel who will control the satellite from two ground stations in Bolivia.
Built by the China Great Wall Industry Corporation under a contract with the Bolivia Aerospace Bureau, the TKSat-1 weighs 5,200 kilos (11,453 pounds) and is expected to function for 15 years.
The satellite will improve telecommunications and Internet access in isolated rural areas of Bolivia.
The TKSat-1 is also equipped to relay radio and television signals and to provide service for neighboring countries in South America.
Bolivia expects to save around $15 million as La Paz will no longer need to lease capacity on foreign-owned satellites.