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Argentina approves satellite station

By Emma Glez and Xin Dingding | China Daily | Updated: 2015-02-27 07:34

The Argentine Congress has approved the installation of a Chinese satellite tracking station in the Patagonia region, a measure that will allow China to speed up its space exploration plans.

The Chinese satellite tracking station will be part of China's project to reach the moon in 2020, according to the Argentinean Aerospace agency CONAE.

China's space authority made no comment on Thursday.

According to CONAE, the station will be located in Patagonia's Neuquen province, in the southwest of the country. The site will be used to monitor and download data through an antenna with a diameter of 35 meters.

The China Satellite Launch and Tracking Control General is expected to invest $300 million in the Argentinean base. The site will be operational in 2016.

The measure to approve the development of the Chinese satellite was passed 133 votes to 107 following eight hours of debate in the Argentinean Congress on Wednesday night.

Despite the approval, Argentina's opposition lawmakers questioned the potential military use of the site and a tax exemption condition that will benefit the station for 50 years.

Members of the government rejected the claims and assured that the station will only serve scientific purposes. "The agreement does not foresee the military use of the facility. But the presence of military officials is unavoidable as all space stations around the world have military personnel," said politician Guillermo Carmona.

As part of the agreement, Argentina will be able to access at least 10 percent of the antenna's available time to develop research projects. The Latin American country will also be entitled to use some satellite stations in Chinese territory.

The preliminary agreement between China and Argentina for the construction of the antenna was signed in 2012.

Pang Zhihao, deputy editor-in-chief of the monthly publication Space International, said that it is common practice for countries to build satellite tracking stations overseas.

"Otherwise, a satellite that circles the globe can only be tracked when it passes above the country's territory, which gives a very short time for scientists to track and maneuver the satellites," he said.

The United States, Russia and the European Union all have satellite tracking stations abroad.

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