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NPC Deputies Push for New Satellite Launch Center
Building a satellite launch center in China's southern island of Hainan is "just a matter of time," given the huge commercial benefits it will deliver, lawmakers and space authorities said Wednesday in Beijing.

Top legislators from Hainan are actively pushing forward the proposed project, that will slash the launch cost of a satellite and help the island prosper, Liu Qi, a deputy to the National People's Congress (NPC) told China Daily.

"We have extensively studied the feasibility of such a project --including locating a launching site and researching its geological and meteorological conditions," said Liu, also vice governor of Hainan.

"We are expecting to meet this week with related departments to further discuss the project."

The legislator's remarks were confirmed by Zhang Qingwei, president of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp.

Taking into account safety and technical factors, China has the means to build a new launch site in Hainan.

Earth-synchronous satellites that are launched from a center closer to the equator reduce the cost of launching, compared with those launched from a site in higher latitudes. And they enjoy a longer shelf life, said Sun Jiadong, a veteran Chinese space expert.

China's three existing launch sites are located in the western and northern landlocked regions of Jiuquan, Xichang and Taiyuan, sitting between 28 and 41 degrees north latitude.

Hainan -- located around 19 degrees -- has the lowest latitude and is nearest to the equator -- two desirable factors that contribute to efficient launches, according to Sun.

An additional launch site will inevitably prompt the launch centers to compete with one another, he said.

Long Lehao, chief designer of rockets at China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, said Hainan's latitude could help increase the capability of rockets by up to 7.4 per cent from that of Southwest China's Xichang site or up to 18.5 percent from Jiuquan in Northwest China.

Long said Hainan had the added advantage of being able to use sea transport.

Worldwide, at least 30 satellites will be placed into earth-synchronous orbits each year by 2010.

The lower cost and high efficiency to be provided by a new launch site will be able to satisfy China's domestic needs -- China plans to send a constellation of satellites to serve its national economy -- and enable it to better compete in the global commercial launch market, both Sun and Zhang said.

Apart from advantages in sending up earth-synchronous satellites, having a launch center in Hainan is also a big safety plus, Zhang said.

For example, when launching a satellite from Hainan over the South China Sea, people will no longer have to worry about space debris hitting.

(China Daily March 6, 2003)

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