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Brazil and China plan to launch three satellites to collect data on agriculture, water pollution, and the environment, according to an announcement made last Friday (15 October) by Sun Laiyan, director general of the China National Space Administration.

The satellites — due to be launched before 2008 — will enable the two countries to acquire more of their own information and images instead of having to rely on other countries as they do now.

Though they are still in research and development, the satellites will be similar to two previously made by both countries and launched from China in 1999 and 2003.

China will also set up an institute to provide satellite data and related services to other countries, such as Canada, Egypt, Iran, Malaysia and Nigeria, which the Xinhua news agency reports have all expressed an interest in buying satellite images from Brazil or China.

The two countries have formed a Space Technology Cooperation Commission to coordinate their activities. The commission, which met for the first time last Thursday (14 October), is co-chaired by China's minister of the State Commission of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence, and Brazil's minister of sciences and technology.

According to Xinhua, the Brazilian deputy-minister of science and technology, Luis Manuel Rabelo Fernandez, described the collaboration as "an example to the world of what can be achieved by two developing countries through active and long-term cooperation in a frontier field of high and complex technology".

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