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    In this photo provided by China's official Xinhua News Agency, a Long March-4C rocket carrying a relay satellite, named Queqiao (Magpie Bridge), is launched from southwest China's Xichang Satellite Launch Center, Monday, May 21, 2018. China has launched a relay satellite as part of a groundbreaking program to land a probe on the far side of the moon this year. The China National Space Administration said on its website that the satellite lofted into space early Monday aboard a Long March-4C rocket will facilitate communication between controllers on Earth and the Chang'e 4 mission.

    China's Space Infrastructure Abroad Becoming Target of Info Attack - Analyst

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    A series of publications in Western media and statements by American politicians about the allegedly “mysterious” Chinese satellite tracking station in Argentina’s Patagonia is another reflection of the growing information war between the US and China.

    A spokesperson for the National Security Council of the Trump administration, Garrett Marquis, said that the "Patagonian ground station, agreed a decade ago with a corrupt and financially vulnerable government, is another example of a non-transparent and predatory Chinese deal that undermines the sovereignty of the host country".

    Why did the long-agreed stations become the object of an information attack, and are the Chinese tracking stations really such a danger to the West? Sputnik asked Russian military expert Vasily Kashin to answer these questions.

    According to Reuters, the Chinese facility in Argentina is even called a "black box", a mysterious structure that can be used for spying. US-China relations are exacerbating and the formation of the image of a new enemy in the face of China in the USA is a natural consequence of this. As a result, Chinese projects that once did not arouse much interest, and which were quietly implemented on the territory of US allies, are now in the spotlight.

    Maintaining a network of worldwide distributed space tracking stations and satellite communications is a necessary part of any advanced space program. China began to build such facilities against the backdrop of the growth of its space program in the 2000s.

    China has an overseas network of stations monitoring space objects. One such station is located in Dongara, Australia — a US military ally. The facility was approved by the Australian government in 2009 and in 2011 was used to support the flight of the Shenzhou 8 spacecraft.

    READ MORE: US Aims for Space Supremacy Pose Potential Threats to Russia, China — Ambassador

    Unlike the facility in Patagonia, the station in Dongara was built by a Swedish company and transferred to the Chinese as tenants for operation. It was inspected by the Australian authorities (a claim is made regarding the station in Patagonia that there is no necessary inspection mechanism). At the same time, the key equipment of the station in Dongara was supplied from China and operated by Chinese personnel.

    Another Chinese facility in a Western state is a station in Kiruna, Sweden. Other stations are located in the Pacific island state of Kiribati, in Pakistan (in Karachi and Lahore), Kenya (Malindi), Namibia (Swakopmund) and in Chile (Santiago).

    Yuanwang Space Tracking Ships

    Prior to the construction of overseas stations, China, in implementing its space program, relied entirely on stations on its territory and on special sea-faring space tracking vessels of the Yuanwan series (远望). The first such ships were commissioned in 1980. Several generations of ships have changed to date. Now five ships of the Yuanwan series are being operated.

    Of course, the commissioning of ground stations made it possible to simplify, cheapen and improve the accuracy of observation and control of spacecraft in orbit. The need for such infrastructure is growing in line with Chinese space ambitions, including the implementation of missions to the moon and deep-space research.

    There is no reason to assume that these expensive and attention-grabbing facilities are being used for espionage — they are excessively complex to intercept the communication channels of enemy satellites with ground points. Of course, the Chinese space program is implemented mainly by military institutions (the Strategic Support Force and the Development of Arms and Military Equipment Department). However, space programs and technologies are almost always of dual-use nature, and the military component in them is difficult to separate from the civilian.

    Against the backdrop of the US-instigated expansion of the arms race into space, the line between military and civilian programs seems to be completely erased. Any space program belonging to an enemy country is beginning to be perceived as a threat. As a result, Chinese space infrastructure on the territory of US allies may be in a difficult position. China will have to think about their transfer to more reliable places or about building additional expensive vessels to track space objects.

    The views and opinions expressed by the speaker do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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