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China To Build Ground Stations In Antarctica To Support Satellites. Science Or Surveillance?

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China, the third nation after the Soviet Union and the United States to launch a man into space, will construct ground stations in Antarctica to support its network of ocean monitoring satellites, according to official media on Thursday.

Some countries are worried that China’s extensive network of ground stations, which it needs to support an increasing number of satellites and its aspirations for space travel, could be used for spying. China, however, dismisses these claims.

Due to “changes” in geopolitics, Sweden’s state-owned space corporation refused to extend contracts with China or take new Chinese business in 2020. Sweden had previously provided ground stations that assisted Chinese spacecraft to fly and send data.

China Aerospace Science and Technology Group Co. won the contract with its 43.95 million yuan ($6.53 million) bid, according to state-run China Space News, and will now construct the stations at the Zhongshan research site, one of two permanent Chinese research stations on Antarctica.

Although China Space News published two supplemental pictures of an artist’s rendering showing four ground stations at Zhongshan, near Prydz Bay in East Antarctica, south of the Indian Ocean, there were no technical specifics provided for the project in the report.

According to China Space News, the project was a component of larger programmes focused at developing China’s marine economy and making China a maritime power.

Despite China’s assurances that the station’s aim is peaceful space observation and spacecraft missions, doubts have been raised concerning the purpose of a Chinese-built ground station in Argentina’s Patagonia.

The arrival of a Chinese military survey ship at Sri Lanka’s Chinese-built port of Hambantota last year angered neighboring India concerned about potential spying. Analysts claim the ship monitors launches of satellites, rockets, and missiles.

The final of China’s three space station modules was launched in October, making it the second permanently occupied outpost in low-Earth orbit after the International Space Station, which is run by NASA.

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