China launched a communications satellite for Venezuela on Wednesday, strengthening political ties with its oil-rich, socialist, Latin American ally. Venezuela's first satellite will orbit at an attitude of 36,500km, transmitting television and telecommunication signals over most of Latin America and parts of the Caribbean for at least 15 years. Though engineers still need a three-month test run to its ensure proper operation, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has already dubbed the event a landmark success in his nation's struggle for technological independence from the United States. 'This is a satellite for freedom,' Mr Chavez said in an address to the nation after the launch. Named after Simon Bolivar, who liberated Venezuela from its Spanish rulers in the 19th century, the 5-tonne satellite was mounted onto a Long March 3B rocket at Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in Sichuan . Venezuela paid China more than US$400 million to join the space club, according to the Associated Press, and mainland state media have hailed the deal as yet another breakthrough for China in the international satellite market. A spokesman for the China Great Wall Industry Corporation said China's growing presence in space would only benefit the world. 'The Great Wall company will continue to explore the civilian satellite market, improve other countries' living standards and increase global prosperity,' he said. China has jointly built satellites with Brazil, launched a commercial satellite for Nigeria, and signed a satellite-building and launching pact with Pakistan this month. Wang Xudong , satellite designer and adviser to the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, said China was just helping friendly nations and had no intention of competing with the US in the global market. Professor Wang said that because China planned to launch more than 200 domestic satellites in the short term, most of the launching facilities - if not all - must first satisfy internal demand. 'We launched satellites for Nigeria and Venezuela because they both have oil and we need it,' he said. 'The satellites we sold them were, in fact, the same.' Guo Jianning , director of the China Centre for Resources Satellite Data and Application, also noted a shortfall. 'The schedule is quite full, indeed, but we can manage to bring one or two other countries onto the launch pad each year.' According to experts, Chinese satellites are less advanced than those from the US, Europe and Russia, but like other Chinese products, they are cheaper and can meet the demands of most developing countries.