Venezuelan satellite launched from China

Por Venezuela Real - 29 de Octubre, 2008, 18:05, Categoría: Prensa Internacional

Washington Post
October 29, 2008

EL SOMBRERO, Venezuela -- Chinese and Venezuelan scientists hovered over radar screens, a Russian combat jet flew overhead and satellite dishes tilted toward the skies as Venezuela tracked the launch of its first satellite on Wednesday.

President Hugo Chavez has increasingly turned toward the East for help in technological development, and his latest endeavor _ at a cost of some $406 million _ will help him spread his revolutionary message across Latin America.

A rocket launched from China's western Sichuan province carried the 5.1-ton satellite into space and it is supposed to reach its final orbit 21,900 miles (36,500 kilometers) above the earth next week.

It will begin carrying radio, television and other data transmissions in early 2009 after three months of tests.

Chavez watched the launch by television with Bolivian President Evo Morales at an observation center just south of Venezuela's capital.

"This is a satellite for freedom," Chavez said in a nationally televised address following the launch.
The Simon Bolivar Satellite _ named after the Latin American independence hero _ is part of the Venezuelan leader's drive for technological independence from the U.S. and tighter ties with Latin America.

The satellite could potentially serve military purposes such as listening in on telephone conversations, but Venezuelan officials insist their intentions are peaceful.

After rejecting offers from France and Russia to build the satellite, Chavez turned to China in 2004. The socialist leader has been building up Venezuela's military and its technology with help from Russia, China and Iran.

Information Minister Andres Izarra said the satellite will help expand the reach of the Caracas-based Telesur television network, which is financed mostly by Venezuela.

Uruguay joined Venezuela in the project, donating an orbit to which it has rights in exchange for 10 percent of the satellite's transmission capacity.

"The agreement yields great benefits to Uruguay, which does not have the resources to make the investment, and for Venezuela, which does not have an orbit at its disposition," Science Minister Nuris Orihuela told The Associated Press.

With an estimated life of 15 years, the satellite will bring telecommunications coverage to a rugged part of southeastern Venezuela where land lines are difficult and costly to build and maintain.

Brazil and Argentina are the only other South American nations with their own satellites. Venezuela plans another satellite launch in 2013.

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