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Bolivia’s first satellite, Tupac Katari, has launched successfully from space station Xichang in the western Chinese province of Sichuan, marking Bolivia’s entry into the space age. Bolivian President Evo Morales flew to China to oversee the launch.
The satellite, currently rising, will orbit 36,000km above earth and will be operated from two control centres. It was launched at 12.42pm, Bolivian time, with the technical assistance of Bolivian and Chinese scientists. It is predicted to take two weeks to reach its position.
Marco Antonio Torrico, engineer in the Bolivian Space Agency, said that specialists had been gathering in the space station for 24 hours to ensure that ”the meteorological conditions are the best they can be”.
The satellite is 2.5 metres in width and 3.6 in height, with a height of 28 metres when the solar panels are extended. It is made of titanium, steel, and aluminium.
Morales said today that the satellite “will be our light”, referring to the Bolivian state, after “so many years of living in darkness, suffering and the domination of empires”.
He went on to say the satellite’s namesake, Tupac Katari, was “An indigenous leader who rebelled against the Spanish Empire in the century 18th century, in whose honour the satellite is baptised – before being dismembered 232 years ago, said ‘I will return and I will be millions’. Now from space Tupac Katari will be our light, he will be like millions.”
The satellite is due to start operating in April 2014 and it will facilitate and improve internet, telephone, television, and radio services. The benefits of the satellite will reach all 337 municipalities of Bolivia.