Argentina Congress OKs deal with China on satellite station

Updated: 2015-02-26 13:46


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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina - Argentina's Congress on Wednesday approved the installation of a Chinese satellite tracking station in the South American country's Patagonia region.

The measure passed in the lower house with 133 votes in favor and 107 against. Opposition lawmakers questioned the possible military use of the base and a tax exemption that will benefit the station for 50 years.

President Cristina Fernandez's government has said the project is part of China's plans to reach the moon in 2020.

The satellite station being built in southern Neuquen province is China's first outside the country for its space exploration program. It will be used for monitoring and downloading data through an antenna with a 115-foot (35-meter) diameter. It's expected to cost $300 million and will be operational in 2016.

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.

Argentina launched its first domestically built communications satellite last year. The ARSAT-1 satellite was the first to be constructed with local technology in Latin America.