China is planning to build new ground stations in East Antarctica to support its growing network of ocean monitoring satellites.
China plans to develop its space facilities in Antarctica as part of the country’s ambitious goals to become a leading space power.
The country’s state-owned China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) will develop the project after winning the tender with its 43.95 million yuan (£3.39m) bid.
Ground stations help track the tens of thousands of satellites and other objects in Earth’s orbit and predict where they will be at any given time.
China’s new ground stations will be built at Zhongshan, located by Prydz Bay in East Antarctica, south of the Indian Ocean.
State media Global Times stated that the ground stations in the Antarctic scientific research base would help China’s eight marine observation satellites scout for marine resources exploitation, monitor the ecology of coastal zones and marine disasters, and develop China’s maritime economy.
However, some nations have expressed concerns that China could use these stations for espionage.
In 2020, Sweden’s state-owned space company, which had provided ground stations that helped fly Chinese spacecraft and transmit data, declined to renew contracts with China or accept new Chinese business due to “changes” in geopolitics.
Last year, the docking of a Chinese military survey ship at Sri Lanka’s port of Hambantota also drew loud opposition from neighbouring India concerned about potential spying.
To protect the ecosystem and environment in Antarctica, prefabricated buildings will be used to reduce on-site operation. CASIC’s self-developed environmental-friendly insulation materials will also be used in the following construction.
In October 2022, China launched the last three modules of its space station, which became the second permanently inhabited outpost in low-earth orbit after the NASA-led International Space Station.
With Nasa considering a 2031 retirement for the ISS, which is backed mainly by the United States, Russia, Japan, Europe, and Canada, Tiangong could soon become the only functional space station in orbit around the Earth
Sign up to the E&T News e-mail to get great stories like this delivered to your inbox every day.