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Venezuela enters space era with China launched satellite

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A Long March 3II rocket carrying a Venezuelan satellite blasts off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center, southwest China's Sichuan Province, Thursday. Xinhua photo

HONG KONG (BNS): Venezuela made its entry into the elite space club with China launching its first satellite on Thursday morning.

The telecommunication satellite was launched on a Long March 3II rocket from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre on the southwest of Sichuan province.

The state-run Xinhua agency said the Venezuela I Telecom Satellite was produced by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation. It weighs 5,100 kg and could be in operation for 15 years.

The satellite has also been named "Simon Bolivar Satellite", after the 18th century heroic leader of Spanish America's struggle against Spain, which led to the independence of present day Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia and Panama.

This is the first satellite of the oil-rich South American nation. Otherwise a close ally of the US, presently the relations between George Bush and Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez are far from being cordial. There were no responses from the US when this report was being filed.

The report said the satellite would be used for broadcasting, tele-education and medical services, and would cover most parts of South America and the Caribbean region. "It will of great importance to improve living standards of the people living in the country's remote areas," Xinhua said.

China has been trying to carve a niche for itself in the international market for satellite launches. The Venezuelan satellite was the 111th space flight from the Long March family, says the state news agency. Starting in 1987, China has been carrying out international satellite launches. India is among the other countries that are vying for the ever-burgeoning commercial satellite launch business.

In Venezuela, its president Hugo Chavez watched the launch with the Bolivian president Evo Morales at the Luepa Station in the Venezuelan state of Bolivar. According to reports from Venezuela, the programme cost $400 million.

Some 90 people have been trained in China for monitoring the satellite and receiving and processing the data.

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