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Mainland, Hong Kong, Israel Cooperate in Space

A constellation of space-technology companies from the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong and Israel signed contracts yesterday in Beijing to make and launch two satellites for the special administrative region in 2004 and 2006.

The two commercial communication satellites, to be manufactured by Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI), will be launched atop China's Long March 3A rockets to serve the Asian market, including China, said David Chu, chairman of the Hong Kong Satellite Technology Holdings Ltd.

If the two are successful, another eight communications satellites will follow suit within six years to form a "sky network" of HKSAT series, and "bring knowledge to people," said Chu, also a member of the Legislative Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

Under the landmark deals, China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp (CASC) will serve as a subcontractor for the satellite project, producing sub-systems and components of the satellites and offering launch services, said company president Zhang Qingwei.

Touting the cooperative project as the "largest commercial collaboration" between the mainland and Hong Kong, Chu claimed the new satellites will benefit every Chinese -- and the Asia-Pacific region at large -- by providing digital communications, remote learning and broadband Internet access.

"For one thing, the Direct-to-Home TV, which is not available in Hong Kong but is in almost every part of developed countries, will soon be ready for every Hong Kong resident when the satellites are operational," he said.

For Zhang, the satellite project will not only bring customers for the Long March rockets, but also help propel the development of high technology in Hong Kong, and thus contribute to the region's prosperity.

The production, management and marketing of the satellites will be all undertaken by the Hong Kong Satellite Technology Group (HKSTG), which was founded yesterday and includes Chu's company, the CASC, the Beijing-based Sino Satellite Communications Co and IAI.

The group will invest US$350 million for the initial two satellites, Zhang said. But Chu estimated each of the satellites will cost US$200 million.

"We are a majority shareholder, holding 70 percent of the group's shares," Chu said. "If the government is a major shareholder, inevitably there will be a lot of bureaucracy. We can operate much more commercially and efficiently."

(China Daily January 18, 2002)

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