A new rocket launch site in Hainan province is being considered to replace China's three existing venues, an expert said. Long Lehao, vice-principal of the China Carrier Rocket Technology Research Institute, said the project, estimated to cost at least between one billion (HK$930 million) and two billion yuan, had the blessing of both central and Hainan authorities. The Hong Kong-based Ta Kung Pao quoted Mr Long yesterday as saying the proposed centre would probably be built on the eastern side of the island, near Sanya city. The location's low latitude would make take-offs easier, and its sea-bound environment would help in the recovery of rockets, enhance safety and cut transport costs, he said. Mr Long said the existing launch sites - Xichang, Jiuquan and Taiyuan - 'overlapped with each other' in that they were all based on the same design and functions. 'All of them will have to be overhauled to accommodate advanced rocket propellers and that is not as economically feasible as building a brand new launch centre from scratch,' said Mr Long. He believed the old centres would be closed if the Hainan plan materialised. Mr Long expected the Hainan provincial Government would be the financing flagship, providing land and basic facilities. Foreign participation in the project might be considered, he said. According to Mr Long, the row with the United States over the Cox report on alleged Chinese espionage had resulted in Beijing turning to Europe and Japan for satellite launch dealings, with the possibility of a launch for a European company in March.