Sri Lanka’s first satellite was launched into space from western China on Tuesday by a state-run Chinese firm, in a reflection of deepening strategic and economic ties.

SupremeSAT, a private company which has an agreement with the Chinese government-run Great Wall Industry Corporation (GWIC), carried out the launch at the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in western Sichuan province, according to the official Xinhua news agency. The launch was scheduled to have taken place on November 22, but was delayed because of bad weather.Xinhua said the Sri Lankan government had “distanced itself from the launch insisting that there is no state involvement”and that it was carried out by a private company, adding that earlier reports said the total investment for the project, including the construction of a Content Management Station and Space Academy in the town of Kandy in Sri Lanka, was estimated at $320 million. The private firm had “an exclusive partnership agreement” with GWIC for the design, manufacturing and launching of the satellite.

In a suggestion that the Sri Lankan government had lent its backing to the project, President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s youngest son Rohitha “has been credited in domestic media as the creator of the satellite”, Reuters reported from Colombo.

China’s satellite programme has, in recent years, been expanding its presence overseas. The GWIC has launched satellites for a number of countries, including Pakistan, Nigeria, Bolivia and Venezuela. Last year, the GWIC put into orbit Pakistan’s first communications satellite from the Xichang base. The PAKSAT-1R satellite was China’s first “in-orbit delivery” for an Asian country.