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China, Pakistan to cooperate in space

Quetta, Pakistan, 26 Apr 2007 : 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.

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.