China to lose access to to a strategic space tracking station in Western Australia

China will lose access to a strategic space tracking station in Western Australia when its contract expires, the facility's owners said, a choice that cuts into Beijing's expanding space exploration and navigational capabilities within the Pacific region.

China to lose access to to a strategic space tracking station in Western Australia
Australia strategic space tracking station

China will lose access to a strategic space tracking station in Western Australia when its contract expires, the facility's owners said, a choice that cuts into Beijing's expanding space exploration and navigational capabilities within the Pacific region.

The Swedish Space Corporation (SSC) has had a contract allowing Beijing access to the satellite antenna at the bottom station since a minimum of 2011. it's located next to an SSC satellite station primarily employed by the us and its agencies, including NASA.

The Swedish state-owned company told Reuters it might not enter into any new contracts at the Australian site to support Chinese customers after its current contract expires. However, it didn't disclose when the lease runs out.

"Given the complexity of the Chinese market, caused by the general geopolitical situation, SSC has decided to focus mainly on other markets for the approaching years," the corporate said in an emailed response to questions.

The site is owned by SSC subsidiary, SSC Space Australia.The Australian government didn't immediately answer questions on Monday (Sep 21).The Chinese foreign ministry didn't immediately answer a Reuters request for comment.

The expansion of China's space capabilities, which incorporates the growing sophistication of its Beidou navigation network, is one among the new frontiers of tension between the US and China, who are clashing on everything from technology and trade to Chinese activities within the disputed South China Sea.

Australia features a strong alliance with the us , which incorporates working together on space research and programmes, while Canberra's diplomatic and trade ties with Beijing have also been fracturing.

China last used the Yatharagga Satellite Station, located about 350km north of the Australian city of Perth, in June 2013 to support the three-person Shenzhou 10 mission which completed a series of space docking tests, SSC said.

The SSC said the present contract supports Chinese scientific space missions within its programme for manned-space flights for telemetry, tracking and command services.

Ground stations are an important a part of space programmes given they create a telecommunications link with spacecraft. While stations have different capabilities, they will be equipped to coordinate satellites for civil-military Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) like Beidou, Russia's GLONASS, the ecu Union's Galileo system and US-owned GPS.

China's space programme has been increasing its access to overseas ground stations in recent years in line with the expansion of its space exploration and navigational programmes.

"Generally speaking anywhere you set a GNSS monitoring ground station will improve the accuracy of positioning for that region," said Joon Wayn Cheong, a senior research associate at the University of latest South Wales' School of EE .

Christopher Newman, professor of Space Law and Policy at Northumbria University in Newcastle, England, said China wants to get rid of its dependence on GPS as a part of broader plans to expand its global influence.

"GPS might be made unavailable to them during a military conflict. An independent secure system is crucial for the capabilities of the People's Liberation Army in reference to targeting, weapons, navigation," Newman told Reuters.Beijing last year re-established diplomatic ties with the tiny Pacific island nation of Kiribati, where it's a mothballed ground station within the central Pacific .