Beijing - A Chinese communications and broadcast satellite is failing less than a month into orbit because of malfunctioning solar panels, a China-watching Hong Kong-based group said on Monday.

The SinoSat-2 satellite, launched on October 29 in the southwestern province of Sichuan, is designed to serve live television signals and digital broadband multimedia systems in China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.

But technicians discovered its main solar panel had failed to unfold as planned on November 7, disabling some antennae from receiving ground instructions, the Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said.

"Chinese satellite experts are doing their utmost to save it but the chance of success is slim," the group said in a faxed statement, quoting unnamed sources.

A special team had been set up to handle the incident, it said.

The Chinese government could not be immediately reached for comment, but there have been discussions on the satellite's apparently unusual orbit on some Chinese technological Internet forums since earlier this month.

SinoSat-2, China's 51st straight successful space launch since 1996, would help China improve the capacity and reliability of its information and live television broadcasts, Xinhua news agency said at the time of the launch.

China could lose 100-billion yuan ($12,71 billion) of potential revenues from the international market over the next five years if the satellite, costing 2-billion yuan, eventually failed, the group said.

In 2003, China became only the third country - after the former Soviet Union and the United States - to launch a man into space aboard its own rocket. In October 2005, it sent two men into orbit and plans a space walk by 2008.