Beijing: For the first time, China will be launching a communication satellite for close ally Pakistan, a move that will mark "a new beginning" in bilateral space collaboration.

The satellite named PAKSAT-1R will be launched at an "appropriate time" in the coming days; state-run Xinhua news agency quoted an unnamed official as saying.

The satellite, which was made in China, would provide a variety of benefits, including high-power communication and weather monitoring facilities, besides strategic defence applications.

Both the satellite and rocket are currently in good condition, the official said.

The satellite would be launched from Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in southwest Sichuan Province by China's space work horse, the Long March-3B carrier rocket, he said.

The new satellite was expected to replace PAKSAT-1, which was acquired by Pakistan in 2002 from the US-based Hughes Space and Communications Company after Indonesia had given it up due to power problems.

Appreciating China's gesture, Pakistan's Ambassador to Beijing, Masood Khan, said PAKSAT-1R is a symbol of Pak-China cooperation in the area of space science and technology.

"It is the first of the kind to be launched by China and Pakistan. Therefore, it establishes a new platform, and it marks a new beginning," Pakistan's state-run APP quoted Khan as telling the Chinese media.

"As we accomplished this goal of launching PAKSAT-1R, we will swiftly move on to expand our collaboration with China in related fields of space science and technology," he said.

In the long term, he said, "we also want to cooperate with China on satellite designs to develop Pakistan's indigenous capability."

Khan expressed Pakistan's desire to participate in China's Manned Space as well Deep Space Exploration programmes in future.

"It is our desire that the first non-Chinese astronaut to travel on board a Chinese spaceflight is a Pakistani," he said.

The satellite would bring direct benefits to Pakistan's economy, Khan said, adding that it would refine and enhance country's capabilities for the use of broadband Internet, digital broadcasting, mobile telephony and disaster prevention and management.

All these capabilities will enable Pakistan to focus more sharply on social development, especially on education and health sectors, he said.

Defence analysts claim that the remote sensing satellite with its high power cameras could provide a variety of applications in the defence field, including a peek into the troop movements on the Indian side.

Khan said the launching of the satellite coincides with the celebrations of 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Pakistan and China. With this Pakistan and China are moving into the higher stages of aerospace cooperation, he said.

Remote sensing satellite is one such area. This satellite will cover crop monitoring, weather forecasting, urban planning, disaster preparedness and response, earth observation and oceanography.

These applications will have a direct impact on agriculture, industry and services sectors of Pakistan, vital for economy, Khan said.

Pakistan felt the need for such a satellite when it was hit by massive floods last year which caused large scale devastation across the country, he said.

He also praised progress made by China in space technology which included several space missions and launch of several communication satellites.

(Agencies)