Monday, November 7, 2011

China uses Australian Space Tracking Station

The South Morning China Post in Hong Kong is reporting that China has both acquired and used a space tracking station in Dongara, Western Australia for the recent Shenzhou VIII Mission.

Space Boomerang understands that the Dongara facility is actually owned and operated by the Universal Space Network - a U.S. Based subsidiary of the Sweedish Space Corporation (SSC). The site itself has two main antenna's for TT&C and Satellite Data Downlink, supporting S-Band, X-Band and Ku-Band services. It is also hosted next to the Yarragadee / MOBLAS-5 facility that is run by Electro-Optic Systems (EOS) for Geoscience Australia.

The South Morning China Post article focuses on the fact that China has managed to acquire a space tracking station in Australia, a major U.S. ally with major space and tracking facilities of its own in Australia.

It is understood that the Chinese were renting the site from SSC, which is in fact a regular practice, with SSC's customers for the Universal Space Network including NASA, ESA, CNES, JAXA, KARI and a number of other global space companies and agencies, and Chinese use of the facility is a welcome and positive development. The reports do not seem to indicate that a dedicated tracking antenna or facility has been developed and installed for sole use of the Chinese, although it is likely that China has provided some of its own dedicated equipment for use at the station.

It is good to see Australia play a positive role in Civilian Space development, as it provides a unique geographic location that is valuable for many satellite tracking and communications activities. China is one of the latest countries to take advantage of this situation, and Australia should continue to foster the development of the civilian and peaceful use of space with many international partners.

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