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    South Asia
     Apr 26, 2007
China, Pakistan cooperate in space
By Syed Fazl-e-Haider

QUETTA, Pakistan - In a joint statement issued last week at the conclusion of Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz's official visit to China, both sides said they are determined to elevate their friendship and strategic partnership.

As strategic partners, China and Pakistan have agreed to enhance cooperation in the areas of space science and technology. While China can transfer space technology to Pakistan, the South Asian country can in return assist China in

space by establishing a station on its soil to track Chinese satellites.

The two sides have reportedly agreed that the Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO) will form a working group that will negotiate the purchase of satellites from China. SUPARCO, Pakistan's national space agency, was established in 1962 as an autonomous research and development organization under the federal government.

Pakistan-China bilateral cooperation in the space industry could span a broad spectrum, including climate science, clean energy technologies, clean water technologies, cyber-security, basic space, atmospheric and earth sciences, and marine sciences.

It is worth mentioning that it was China that launched Pakistan's first satellite into orbit in 1990 because Pakistan had no spaceport. Badr-A, Pakistan's first indigenously developed satellite, was launched on July 16 that year from Xichang Launch Center in southwestern China's Sichuan province. It was launched with the Long March 2E rocket, which is designed to lift 6,800 kilograms to a low elliptical orbit ranging from 400 to 800 kilometers above Earth. The rocket, called Cluster Carrier, blasted off from a new pad built to launch bigger boosters. The Long March 2E, with four boosters strapped on, carried a large Australian dummy satellite. The satellite successfully completed its design life.

The visiting Pakistani prime minister sought Chinese cooperation in rocket science and space technology. China can help Pakistan in developing and launching satellites. Pakistan's space program is aimed at furthering research in space science and allied fields, enhancing indigenous capabilities in space technology, and promoting the peaceful applications of space science and technology for the socio-economic development of the country.

SUPARCO started building a small amateur radio satellite in late 1986 with support from the Pakistan Amateur Radio Society. It was supposed to be launched by a US space shuttle, but the 1986 Challenger explosion and the resulting delays required a change in plans. In December 2001, Pakistan launched its second satellite, Badr-B, an Earth-observation satellite, on a Zenit 2 rocket from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. It was designed by the United Kingdom's Space Innovations Ltd. Last month, Pakistan successfully test-fired a Hataf VII cruise missile with a range of 700km. It is capable of carrying various types of warheads, including nuclear.

Pakistan is implementing a strategic program for launching the country's own satellite to replace Paksat-1, which has already completed its design life. Launched in February 1996, Paksat-1 was Pakistan's first geostationary satellite and was designed to serve Indonesia. It was originally manufactured by Boeing and used the HS 601 spacecraft design. According to the plan, the Paksat-1R satellite will replace Paksat-1 in 2010. The new Pakistani satellite would orbit the Earth at a height of 200-300km and complete a round of its orbit in 70 minutes. The rocket carrying the new satellite would travel at a speed of 29,000 km/h. Islamabad wants to get space technology from China to achieve the ambitious goals of economic progress and making the country impregnable.

SUPARCO signed a consulting deal with Telesat last month for advice on the purchase, manufacture and launch of the Paksat-1R satellite. Under the agreement, Telesat will help the Pakistani agency find a manufacturer and provide technical and commercial advice during the negotiation process. Telesat will also help oversee the construction of the new satellite and monitor the launch and in-orbit testing services.

Beijing launched its first satellite, Mao 1, to Earth orbit on its own Long March space rocket in April 1970. This made China the fifth nation with a space rocket. Since 1970, China has made scores of successful satellite launches. In 2000, Beijing orbited its first high-resolution electro-optical imaging satellite, which relays its digital pictures by radio to ground stations. China launched its first military communications satellite in January 2000 as part of a People's Liberation Army command-and-control network linking forces for combat. By the end of 2001, China had launched nearly 50 satellites with a 90% success rate. The spacecraft have included remote sensing, communications and weather satellites for both civilian and military use.

China started offering commercial space-launch services to foreign satellite owners in 1986 during a time when US shuttles and European rockets were grounded. Numerous satellites have been launched for foreign clients. Great Wall Industrial Corp is China's commercial space-launch firm. China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp is a large state-owned enterprise that builds five different series of satellites. Today, Beijing is looking forward to expanding its share of the international market for satellite launches and other space services. It has already signed 16 pacts with 13 governments and organizations and established space-industry cooperation with more than 40 countries and international organizations.

Experts in Pakistan view China as the only country that is in a position to transfer space technology to Pakistan. In the initial stages, Pakistan would place its satellite in orbit with Chinese assistance and later develop rockets indigenously.

Launching a remote-sensing satellite is Pakistan's first priority because such a satellite can be used in a variety of cartographic studies. Chinese rocket technology, according to the experts, is the best in the world - the United States drops satellites into the sea and then a special ship recovers them, while China has succeeded in landing its spacecraft on ground.

China recently startled the world by destroying one of its old satellites in space. Numerous US satellites in space are now within range of Chinese anti-satellite weapons. China has not only achieved the capability of launching its satellites into space but is also developing rockets.

Pakistan and China have been strengthening cooperation in the space industry. Last August, China committed to work with Pakistan to launch three Earth-resource satellites over the next five years. The relevant institutions of the two countries had already started the groundwork to launch the satellites within the stipulated period.

Pakistan, China and seven other countries signed a treaty for the establishment of the Asia-Pacific Space Cooperation Organization (APSCO) in 2005. China's legislature ratified the treaty last June. The APSCO will be formally established after China receives approvals from at least five participating countries' parliaments. China is actively engaged in the setting up of APSCO, which will be based in Beijing. The formation of APSCO is expected to facilitate further exchanges and cooperation in space technology in the region.

Syed Fazl-e-Haider, sfazlehaider05@yahoo.com, is a development analyst based in Quetta, Pakistan. He is the author of six books, including The Economic Development of Balochistan, published in May 2004.

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