China has successfully launched its latest broadcast communications satellite, Apstar-7, via a domestic Long March 3B rocket from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in Sichuan Province. The satellite separated from the rocket and reached geostationary orbit 26 minutes after its launch on Saturday 31 March at 6:27 pm Beijing time, according to the Xinhua news agency. When operational, Apstar-7 will provide television and telecommunications services across Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Australasia and Europe for a predicted period of 16 years. France's Thales Alenia Space produced the Spacebus 4000 C2 satellite for the Hong Kong based APT Satellite Company, to replace the aging Apstar-2R at 76.5 degrees East. APT’s fleet of five satellites provide communications services covering about 75% of the world’s population. This latest satellite has 56 operational transponders onboard - 28 C-band and 28 Ku-band to boost direct to home (DTH) and other communications options for regional service providers. Saturday's launch was the 159th by the Long March carrier rockets, which are developed by China Aerospace Science Corporation (CASTC). CASTC runs the China Great Wall Industry Corporation (CGWIC), the sole commercial organisation autorised by the Chinese Government to provide satellites, commercial launch services and to conduct international space cooperation.