Sino-Latin American aerospace ties touted

Updated: 2014-03-31 05:52

By Zhang Fan in Beijing (China Daily Latin America)

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Latin America remains a very promising market for China's aerospace technology, especially in satellite launching, with the Brazilian government recently announcing plans for the launch late this year of another China-Brazil Earth-observation satellite.

No specific date has been given, but the launch is expected to take place in December, according to an official from AEB, the Brazilian space agency.

The launch of the satellite, named ZY-1-04 (or CBERS-4 in Brazil, for China-Brazil Earth Resources Satellite 4), is a crucial undertaking because of the failure last December when CBERS-3, carried by a Chinese Long March 4B rocket, failed to enter a sun-synchronous orbit.

The failure was caused by the premature shutdown of the upper stage of the rocket, according to space experts, and the malfunction was still being investigated.

It was the first time that a Long March 4B rocket encountered failure in the 20 launches since May 1999, when a FY-01 weather satellite was successfully launched into a sun-synchronous orbit.

The rocket belongs to China Great Wall Industry Corp, the only commercial organization authorized by the Chinese government to provide satellites and commercial launch services and to carry out international space cooperation.

"China's technology in satellite launching is very mature and enjoys a rather low failure rate, much lower than the United States and other competitors," said Wang Quan'an, vice-chairman of the Foreign Economic and Trade Advisory Council.

"China is able to guarantee the maximum safety of commercial satellite launching, which is very attractive to countries in need," said Wang.

"Meanwhile, China charges less to launch a satellite because of many reasons, including advanced technology and materials, so it is a bargain, too," Wang added.

Space cooperation between China and Brazil began in 1988, when the two countries agreed to jointly develop the CBERS Earth-observation satellite.

The CBERS-series satellites are designed to collect images of the Amazon region, the world's largest tropical forest, so the Brazilian government can better monitor deforestation of the area.

Currently, three CBERS satellites have been sent into space, all by Long March 4B rockets.

"Both Brazil and China have advanced aerospace technologies; this is the fundamental element of the two countries' space cooperation," said Chen Yuanting, a Latin America expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Chen said the two countries also want to highlight their space cooperation as an example of an exchange of resources between developing nations and as a demonstration of a willingness to gain a position in the international high-tech industry, which is dominated by developed countries.

"I have a very optimistic outlook for the further development of China-Brazil space cooperation, because there is a solid foundation for it," she said.

Besides Brazil, China also launched commercial satellites for five other Latin America countries, including Argentina and, most recently, Bolivia.