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Eutelsat has taken the unusual step to lease an old Chinese satellite (Sinosat-3, although also called ChinaSat-5C) and moved it from its East Asia location (at 163 degrees East) to a new European slot at 1.6 degrees East for Eutelsat, and very near Telenor and Intelsat locations at 1 degrees West as well as other satellites.
The craft has been steadily drifting west since last 2010 and arrived at 1.6 degrees East in late April. The Chinese satellite was leased because under International Telecommunications Union (ITU) rules an application to use an orbital slot must be physically achieved, or else the application lapses. Eutelsat’s application – made via France’s National Frequencies Agency – would have lapsed in June 2011.
The Chinese/Eutelsat satellite operates in the valuable Ku-band and was launched back in 2007, which suggests at least some fully operational life remains in the craft. Incidentally, the new Eutelsat position could almost reach out and touch close neighbours in the shape of Astra 1D, currently at 2.9 degrees East and Rascom at 2.8 degrees East.
There is no official obligation for Eutelsat to leave the satellite in this position long term. The ITU rules only demand that the frequencies are brought into use. Eutelsat could, if it so decided, move the satellite to another position later.