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[KARACHI] Pakistan plans to work with China, Japan and Europe to expand its network of remote sensing (RS) satellites for use in environment monitoring and natural resource surveys.

The Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO) announced this month (16 August) that the plan involves the launch of six homemade, high-resolution RS satellites by 2014.

On 11 August, Pakistan launched a communication satellite Paksat-IR from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in Sichuan province of China.

Under Pakistan's 'Space Programme 2040', the country would place five satellites in the geostationary orbit (36,000 kilometres above earth) and six more in low orbit (from 1602,000 kilometres) between 2011 and 2040. 

These communication and RS satellites are to be launched from foreign space stations as the country does not have its own launch facilities.

The programme will give Pakistan experience in satellite development and space medicine and boost the country’s socio-economic and environmental sectors, natural resource surveying and mitigation of natural disasters, said SUPARCO secretary Arshad Siraj.

Pakistan's space programme also envisages "developing the latest military and space technologies and carrying out experiments on fundamental sciences in the space frontier," Siraj told SciDev.Net.

So far, Pakistan has relied on RS satellites from China and Japan for data, which is quite costly. Data from homemade satellites would be cheaper and more readily available, he added.

Manzoor Soomro, chairman of Pakistan Science Foundation, said indigenous RS satellites would ease monitoring and surveying for environmentalists, scientists and natural resource experts.

"Pakistan has vast and diverse types of areas and environment. It is not easy to reach such areas for natural resource surveying and monitoring. The RSSS (remote sensing satellite system) makes performing such onerous tasks easier and more efficient in inaccessible areas," Soomro said.

"Besides," Soomro said, "the data so gathered can help formulate effective policies, strategies to avert natural disasters or reduce damages caused by them for issuing timely alert warnings".

Qamar uz Zaman Chaudhry, former director-general of the Pakistan Meteorological Department, said Pakistan lacked weather monitoring capability and relied on RS data from foreign weather monitoring satellites obtained through the World Meteorological Organisation.