China is about to lose access to a strategic space tracking station in Western Australia as its contract is about to expire, said the facility’s owners, a decision that cuts into Beijing’s expanding space exploration and navigational capabilities in the Pacific region.
The Swedish Space Corporation (SSC) has had a contract allowing Beijing access to the satellite antenna at the ground station since at least 2011. It is located next to an SSC satellite station primarily used by the United States and its agencies, including NASA.
The Swedish state-owned company told Reuters it would not enter into any new contracts at the Australian site to support Chinese customers after its current contract expires. However, it did not disclose when the lease runs out.
“Given the complexity of the Chinese market, brought about by the overall geopolitical situation, SSC has decided to focus mainly on other markets for the coming years,” the SSC said in an emailed response to questions.
The site is owned by SSC subsidiary, SSC Space Australia.
Australia has a strong alliance with the United States, which includes working together on space research and programmes, while Canberra’s diplomatic and trade ties with Beijing have also been fracturing.
The SSC said the current contract supports Chinese scientific space missions within its programme for manned-space flights for telemetry, tracking and command services.