Category China in Space


China has developed two families of launchers – the Long March, known as the Chang Zheng (CZ), and the Feng Bao (FB, or Storm). The Long March family is divided into seven series – Long March 1, 2, 3, and 4, which have flown, with 5-7 forthcoming (these future launchers will be considered in Chapter 10). The Feng Bao launcher was used from 1971 to 1981 for the JSSW series and Shi Jian 2 (see Chapters 2 and 7), when it ended service and is not considered here; neither is the Long March 1, used for the first two launches, but not subsequently. The Chinese are visually helpful in enabling us to identify their rocket launchers, for their white – painted rockets invariably have the launcher type painted in big red letters in large English script on the side after the Chinese pictograms for “China” and “Hangtian”, the latter meaning “space” or “cosmos” in Chinese.

Although, to an outsider, all rockets, being rocket-shaped, appear to have the same means of propulsion, in fact there are many important distinctions between them. First, rockets may use either solid fuel or liquid fuel. Solid-fuel rockets operate on the same principle as fireworks. A gray sludge-like chemical is poured into a rocket container. When the nozzle is fired, the stage bums to exhaustion. Solid rockets are very powerful. Their main disadvantage is that they cannot be turned off – they simply burn out. They are less precise and less safe.

Liquid-fuel rockets are more complex. They have two tanks – a fuel tank and an oxidizer. Both are pressurized and fuel is injected, at great pressure, into a rocket engine where it is ignited. On liquid-fuel engines, the level of thrust may be varied (throttled) and the engine may be turned off and restarted. This system is complex but more versatile and, from a manned-spaceflight perspective, safer. Liquid-fuel rockets may be divided into three sub-categories, according to the type of fuel used. Most Russian and American civil rockets have used kerosene (a form of paraffin) as a fuel. These are powerful fuels, but they degrade if they are kept in a rocket for more than a few hours at a time. If a launching is missed, the fuels have to be drained and reloaded – a tedious and time-consuming process. From the 1960s, Russian and American military rockets began to use storable propellants, generally based around nitric acid or nitrogen tetroxide and UDMH (unsymetrical dimethyl hydrazine). The

advantage of storable propellants is that they can be kept at room temperature in rockets for long periods before they are fired – a necessity when military rockets must be kept in a constant state of readiness. The disadvantage is that such fuels are highly toxic, presenting hazards for launch crews and horrific consequences in an explosion. In 1960, a Soviet R-16 missile exploded at Baikonour cosmodrome. Ninety-seven engineers, supervisors, and rocket troops died in the ensuing fireball, but the level of casualties was made much worse by the toxic nature of the exploding fuel. It remains the worst rocket disaster in history. Finally, there is the use of liquid hydrogen as a fuel. Liquid hydrogen is enormously powerful, but has to be kept at extremely low temperatures. China has favored the use of storable propellants for main stages, with small solid-rocket boosters for the final kick to 24-hr orbit. The Chinese introduced a hydrogen-fuelled upper stage with the Long March 3 in 1984.

Now follows a description of each of China’s main launcher families. As with many aspects of the Chinese space program, this compilation is a hazardous exercise. Precise technical details of Chinese rockets vary slightly from one publication to another. Designators vary even more, especially when it comes to rocket engines.


Successful launches



























Successful launches to orbit to 30 June 2012.

For example, the YF-20 engine when clustered as a first-stage engine is called the YF-21; when used as a second-stage engine, it is called the YF-22, but when linked to YF-23 vernier engines, it is called the YF-24! Table 3.3 shows launches by launcher type.


Zi Yuan, Huanjing, Tansuo, and Tianhui focused on land masses. In the meantime, China had been working on a series of satelhtes devoted to maritime observations. These would require a quite different set of instruments. The potential of maritime observations had been well known ever since the American Seasat, the Franco – American Topex/Poseidon and Jason, and the Russian Okean. Theoretical work had been undertaken in China in the 1970s. The concept was especially promoted by Jiang Jing Shan, who had seen the other examples and managed to obtain project 863 funding in the 1980s. The program was eventually approved in 1997 [14]. It was developed for the Science and Technology Department of the State Oceanic Administration and planned as the first of a series of regular launchings of observation satellites able to photograph the ocean in three-dimensional color images. The aim of the series was to monitor the seas, tidal zones, offshore sandbanks, and the marine environment, picking out pollutants and sand pouring into the sea. In particular, it would focus on China’s coastal seas (Bohai, Huanghai, Donghai, and Naihai).

The first satellite, Haiyang 1 (later called Haiyang 1A), the Chinese word for “ocean”, was brought into orbit on 15th May 2002 as a companion of Feng Yun 1-4 (see above). Haiyang was a small (1.2 x 1.1 x 1-m), 365-kg oceanographic satelhte using the CAST968 bus. The original orbit with Feng Yun 1 was not suitable for Haiyang so, during the last week of May, a motor lowered Haiyang’s altitude to an operational height of 792-795 km, 100.7 min.

Haiyang had a 10-band three-dimensional ocean color and temperature mechanical scanner made in Shanghai with a swath of 1,164 km, resolution of 1,100 m, a revisit time of three days, and a four-band push-broom Charge Couple Device CCD camera made in Beijing of 500-km swath with 250-m resolution and a seven-day revisit time. The aim was to observe the oceans for chlorophyll,
plankton, fluorescence, sediment, temperature, ice and pollution, chlor­ophyll concentrations, surface tem­peratures, silting, pollutants, sea ice, ocean currents, and aerosols. It crossed China from 08:35 to 10:40 every morning, making observations while downloading data from the 2­GB memory tape recorder over a 22­min period at 5 MB/sec [15].

The original program envisaged a test satelhte with a two-year lifetime

(IA) before an operational satellite

(IB) . The satelhte was a success and relayed back high-quality images, from the Strait of Qongzhou to Mexico Bay. Haiyang 1 focused on the Bohai Sea, the Yellow Sea, the East China Sea, and the South China Sea, operating for 685 days to April 2004, making 830 surveys. Four problems were revealed by this test mission. First, its solar cells did not last as long as hoped. Second, the Chinese were not happy with the level of glinting of the Sun on the ocean’s surface and set the equator crossing time back from 10:00 am to 10:30 am to get a better angle on the next satellite. Third, memory was insufficient, so the next satellite was equipped to download not one, but five sets of data during each overpass. Fourth, the swath was too narrow and

Haiyang, China’s pioneering oceanographic was increased to 3,000 km. satelhte. The operational Haiyang IB was

duly launched on 11th April 2007, with a three-year lifetime, three times greater data capacity, higher resolution, greater tolerance to temperature and vibration, 10 computers, and improved solar cells. Its mission was to monitor the temperature of the ocean, track pollution, watch coastal development, and study environmental changes. It flew at 798 km, with weekly repeater orbits.

Like Huanjing, we have a good volume of information on the Haiyang program. Color sea temperature maps were published, such as an average sea temperature map for the Pacific north-west, ice levels and thickness in the Bohai Sea (which freezes for three months every winter), and river sediments entering the oceans. Maps of the

intersections of warm and cold waters have indicated where fish Uke mackerel, squid, and scad may be found. Hiyang made it possible to make estimates of the biological productivity of the ocean, a vital component in the carbon cycle – a slow and tedious process to undertake from ships – presenting not just maps of the seas around China, but a global productivity estimate. Estimates were made of the carbon dioxide partial pressure in the Yellow Sea so as to begin a model for the ocean carbon cycle. Wind and wave maps of the seas between the Philippines and Indo-China were published. Detailed maps were published of both green tide and red tide infestations, both of which had the potential to damage the marine environment, fishing, and tourism (the 2008 green tide affected the Olympics regatta in Qingdao). Sea ice updates were provided. Color maps were published of suspended sediment in the sea around costal zones. The Haiyangs were able to collect data that measured the level of phytoplankton, benthic plants, and autotrophic bacteria in the seas – indicators of the biological productivity of the ocean. The strength of winds and typhoons was measured and wave heights were calculated to 6 cm. Such information would have been infinitely slower and more costly to obtain from sea-based monitoring. In April 2012, it was announced that Haiyang data would soon be available on the internet from the country’s oceanographic administration, presumably on a system like that of CBERS.

Haiyang marked an important advance in remote sensing for China but, according to the program leaders, Jiang Xingwei and Lin Mingsen, China still lagged behind other countries. There was still much to be done to improve accuracy and extend the application of the data [14]. A three-type series was announced. While the Haiyang 1 series concentrated on ocean color monitoring, the Haiyang 2 series would use microwaves to monitor the dynamic ocean environment, while the Haiyang 3 series would use Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) for surveillance and

mo 105 по 115 120 125 150 155 140 145 150 \ ( )

Sea temperature map off the China coast, from Haiyang. Courtesy: COSPAR China.

monitoring of the ocean with a mixture of continuous and single-look monitoring with a grid antenna. Next in the Haiyang series would be a duo of Haiyang 1C (morning passes) and ID (afternoon passes).

The first of the next series, Haiyang 2 (also called 2A), was launched on 15th August 2011. A month later, over 15th-17th September, Haiyang 2A maneuvered to a holding orbit of 911-929 km, 99.36°, 103.38 min, before, on 29th September, reaching its final, almost circular orbit of 965-968 km, 99.37°, 104 min, and it was declared operational the following 2nd March. It was announced that, for the first two years, it would follow a 14-day cycle and then a 168-day cycle with a five-day sub-cycle. Its aims were to follow pollution and topography in shallow waters, ocean winds, waves, currents, tides, and storms. Its instruments comprised a microwave radiometer to measure ocean temperature, wind speed, and atmospheric vapor; a dual-frequency Ku and C-band radar altimeter to measure sea level, wind speed, and ocean height; and a radar scatterometer pencil – beam radar to measure wind speed and direction and to monitor ocean conditions. Cross-measurements between them should eliminate any inconsistencies in data. The scatterometer was the achievement of Jiang Jing Shan, who had seen how successful it was on Europe’s ERS satellite and the American Seasat. His design had two rotating antennae, horizontal and vertical. It was designed to measure wind speed within 2 m/sec and wind direction within 20° in a swath of 340 km [16]. It was announced that future missions would follow in 2012 (2B), 2015 (2C), and 2019 (2D).

In addition, China plans a joint oceanographic mission with France: CFOSAT (Chinese French Oceanic Satellite), whose objective is to monitor wind and waves globally for the purposes of marine meteorology (especially severe events), ocean dynamics, climate variability, and the surface processes. Taking advantage of French

CFOSAT, with France, a world leader in oceanography. Courtesy: CNES.

experience in such missions as TOPEX/Poseidon, Jason, and Megatropiques, it is intended to improve knowledge of sea-surface processes, waves, and sea ice, especially in coastal areas. There are two main microwave radar instruments: the Surface Waves Investigation and Monitoring instrument (France), which will not measure wave height, but direction, amplitude, and wavelength; and a scatterometer supplied by China with six rotating beams designed to hit the waves at an angle that can measure their frequency. Launch is set for 2015 on the CZ-2C with data transmitted to both countries. The series is summarized in Table 6.8.

Table 6.8. Haiyang series.

Haiyang 1A 15 May 2002 CZ-4B, piggyback with Feng Yun 1-4

Haiyang IB 11 Apr 2007 CZ-2C

Haiyang 2 15 Aug 2011 CZ-4B

All from Taiyuan.

China’s ambitions

This final chapter looks at China’s space ambitions, focusing on the construction of the new cosmodrome on Hainan Island and the new Long March 5, 6, and 7 launchers. The chapter looks at whether we may expect China to send astronauts to the Moon and further afield and, if so, when? Other areas of Chinese technological development are discussed, such as space shuttles and advanced engines. This chapter looks at the Chinese space program in its global perspective (e. g. size of program, budget) and analyzes its key characteristics, features, focus, and rationale. Finally, there is speculation on its future lines of development to 2050.


If we define a space power as a country or block able to put its own satellite into orbit, the world has 10 space powers: Russia, the United States, France, Britain, Europe, China, Japan, India, Israel, and Iran. Of these, Britain and France no longer have a national satellite launching program, so the current relevant number is really eight (Britain cancelled its launcher program before its first successful mission, while France merged its launcher program with the European one).

Nevertheless, it is valuable to set the Chinese space program in a comparable international perspective, both over the whole period from 1957 and, for contemporaneity, the five most recent years (2007-11) and 2011, a landmark year (Table 10.1).

China therefore accounts for a tiny proportion of world space launches (2.8%). If we look outside the two leading superpowers, though, and focus on the minor powers, China then accounts for 30.76% of them – almost a third. What is more interesting is the changing order of launches. Russia has almost always been the leading spacefaring nation in terms of launches, followed closely by the United States and, some distance behind, Europe. In 2007, China overtook Europe as the third largest launcher and, in 2011, overtook the United States – two significant landmarks. By the end of June 2012, its mid-year total was only one launch behind Russia, with the United States trailing.








United States






























Looking at deep-space missions (the Moon, Venus, Mars, and beyond), six space powers have now launched deep-space missions: the United States, Russia, Europe, Japan, China, and India. Turning to geosynchronous orbit, only six countries have launchers able to reach 24-hr orbit: the United States, Russia, Europe, China, Japan, and, since 2001, India. China is consistently in the top league of the space nations.

China in Space

In the first decade of the twenty-first century, observers of the night sky were able to watch the construction of the International Space Station in the sky above. A conspicuous, steady star would blaze across the dark sky from west to east, becoming ever brighter as new modules and cargoes were brought up until it outshone all the other objects in the heavens in what was humankind’s largest ever construction project.

From 2011, observers were able to spot a new, rival space station, the Tiangong, cross the sky. They could pick out the much smaller Shenzhou spacecraft as they chased Tiangong across the night skies to bring crews up to the station. Now planet Earth had two space stations: one belonging to the traditional big space powers; and one made in China.

The emergence of China as a spacefaring nation should, over the long course of history, be no surprise. Way back in what were sometimes called the Dark Ages in Europe, the rocket was invented in China. In the twentieth century, many of the engineering calculations necessary for rocket flight were done by one of the world’s great space designers, Tsien Hsue Shen. The Chinese space program was founded on 8th October 1956, a year before the first Sputnik was even launched. On that day, China’s political leadership decreed the foundation of the Fifth Academy to spearhead China’s space effort and requisitioned two abandoned sanatoria to be its first laboratories. Had it not been for subsequent political upheaval – the great leap forward and the cultural revolution – China might have achieved much more, much sooner.

As it was, China’s first satelhte in orbit was the biggest of the superpowers. China was the third space power to recover its own satellites, put animals in orbit, and develop hydrogen-fuelled upper stages. China developed a broad program for Earth observations, navigation, communications, weather forecasting, and materials processing. China achieved space superpower status in 2003 when Yang Liwei flew into orbit. China overtook Europe in launchings per year and, in 2011, surpassed the United States.

The Chinese space program has sometimes been called the last of the secret space programs. Details of its early history still remain obscure. Writing about the early

Chinese space program is like trying to assemble a jigsaw where some of the pieces are not colored in and others are missing altogether. Even today, its facilities are still the least accessible of the space powers. In more recent times, China has become more forthcoming in detailing information on its current programs and future intentions.

Penetrating the fog enveloping some aspects of the Chinese space program is one problem. The level of Western misunderstanding of the program is a challenge of similar magnitude. With some honorable exceptions, many in the Western media who ought to know better responded to Chinese space developments with a mixture of puzzlement, patronizing down-putting, and dismissal. Chinese capabilities are often played down on the basis that their equipment is alternately primitive or imitative. If it works, the presumption is that it must have been stolen. There was, and remains, an extraordinary reluctance to concede to the Chinese the credit of having created, designed, and built their own equipment. This is a problem not peculiar to the space program, for the West often forgets how China pioneered so many things – from medicine to mathematics and public administration, as well as such inventions as the suspension bridge, paper-making, the compass, chemistry, printing, paper money, the stirrup, the plough, the lock gate, the wheelbarrow, and clockwork. The observations by the ancient Chinese astronomers are renowned for their accuracy.

This book is the third in a series. It was originally published as The Chinese Space Program – From Conception to Future Capabilities by Praxis/Wiley in 1998 and told the story of the program from its pre-history, through its first launch (1970), and its subsequent development in the 1980s and 1990s. The story was brought fully up to date, when Yang Liwei circled the Earth, as China’s Space Program – From Conception to Manned Spaceflight (Praxis/Springer, 2004). This book begins with the construction of China’s space station, the Tiangong (Chapter 1), and is a detailed account of the contemporary Chinese space program. The earlier history is condensed into a single chapter (Chapter 2) and those interested in the detail of the early history should re-read the previous two books in the series. The subsequent chapters take the reader through the contemporary program: organization, infrastructure, and launchers (Chapter 3), recoverable satellites (Chapter 4), communications satelhtes (Chapter 5), applications satellites (Chapter 6) and space science (Chapter 7). Chapter 8 describes the manned spaceflight program, while Chapter 9 examines current Chinese exploration of the Moon and Mars. Finally, Chapter 10 looks at China’s ambitions in space, future programs, and their most likely lines of development.

Finally, a note on terminology. A complicating feature – one familiar to students of the Soviet space program – is the use of different designators for the same satellites. In the West, Chinese satellites were named China 1, 2, 3, and so on, also PRC-1, PRC-2 (People’s Republic of China), and even Mao 1, 2, and 3. At the time, the Chinese simply referred to these missions by their date of launch or in connection with political events. Eventually, the Chinese introduced a set of designators and applied them retrospectively. That should have been an end to the matter, but the Chinese then revised some of these designators several times over – and then changed them again! Even to this day, different designators are applied to the same program. As if this were not complicated enough, inconsistent translations mean that many institutes, bodies, and organizations acquire, over time, slightly different names. Sometimes similar-sounding names turn out to be the same thing – but sometimes not. The Chinese also applied a series of numerical codes to their various space projects. Some were based on dates, others not. All this must be carefully disentangled. Here, the most consistent and most universally understandable systems have been used, but readers should be aware that others are also in use. We must also note that the Chinese have sometimes, though not always, followed the Soviet practice of not giving a number to the first satellite of a series. Finally, in the area of personal names, this book generally follows the Chinese practice of identifying people by their surname first.


The FSW 1 series was introduced in September 1987, barely a month after the conclusion of the FSW 0 series. The “1” series was heavier (2,100 kg), with a greater payload and able to orbit up to 10 days (although eight days was the norm). A digital control system was introduced, new gyroscopes were added to help control attitude, new sensors were added, the satellite could be reprogrammed when in orbit, a control computer was installed, and the pressure inside the cabin could be regulated. Later, the Chinese stated that the FSW 1 series was a cartographical and mapping satellite, making it comparable to the Russian Kometa series.

FSW 1 continued the significant move into microgravity experiments [4]. The first mission, FSW 1-1, was devoted to biological and material processing: seeing how algae would grow in orbit and processing gallium arsenide. One of the biological cargoes was rice and other seeds, which were planted afterwards on the Earth on a 660-ha plot. It was found that space-flown rice grew taller, tilted wider, lasted longer, generated seeds of longer duration, and had greater yield and higher fat content. Whereas a ground version of Japonica rice had a yield of 4,500 kg/ha, the space – flown variety had a yield of 7,500 kg/ha. Indica rice had a 12% higher yield. Green pepper seeds were promising, generating peppers of 300 g and a yield up by 122%. Tomatoes had 20% higher yield and better disease resistance. Wheat and barley were flown in 1988 and 1990 and had greater height, except for those hit by high-energy particles, which did not germinate. Garlic, though, did not like the space environment and growth was weak but, by contrast, rape benefitted [5].

FSW 1-2 carried both a Chinese remote sensing package and a German protein crystal growth experimental package called Cosima. The German experiment, developed by Messerschmitt Bolkow Blohm and the German space agency, DLR, was intended to find new ways of producing the medical drug interferon from large and pure protein-based crystal. Germany paid €440,000 and the package was handed back to DLR the day after landing.

Guinea pigs and plants were carried on FSW 1-3 as part of a microgravity experiment. In doing so, China became the third nation to send animals into orbit and recover them. FSW 1-4 carried a Swedish satellite, Freja, piggybacked into orbit while the main spacecraft carried Chinese and Japanese microgravity experiments (the latter being a 710°C microgravity furnace). The Chinese experiments involved testing how rice, tomatoes, wheat, and asparagus would grow in orbit (apparently,

Preparations, top view, giving a good idea of the scale of the cabin.

much faster). One of the early missions carried mice, but they died after five days due to a pollutant in the atmosphere in the cabin. Subsequent examination found that, prior to that, there were changes in the blood vessels in their brain and lung tissue as a result of weightlessness. Later mice experiments showed a clear shift of blood concentration to the brain [6].

The FSW 1 series carried a suite of three furnaces:

• Temperature Gradient Furnace for gallium arsenide;

• Advanced Gradient Temperature Furnace for remelting; and

• Solution Growth Facility for crystal growth from solutions.

For gallium arsenide, a small 11-kg furnace was used, able to work for 270 min, drawing 150 W of power and able to generate a maximum temperature of 1,260°C. Pioneer of gallium arsenide was Li Lin and she was able to show that

Preparations, side view, showing where scientific equipment was installed.

superconductors made in orbit were superior to Earthly ones. Chen Wanchun was the pioneer of lithium and he grew more than 50 crystals on the FSWs of August 1988, October 1992, and July 1994. The 1996 mission experiments were led by the Institute of Physics of the Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Physics in Lanzhou. They cut a 20-mm silicon gallium arsenide crystal ingot with uniform results, solidified nitrate and phosphorous alloys, and grew 51 boules of calcium hthium crystals. According to experimenters Chen and Wei, the processes of crystal growth in orbit were very complex, involving a mixture of factors that are still not well understood. Iron samples were also smelted [7].

Launch: this is FSW 1-4, carrying Sweden’s Freja. Courtesy: Sven Grahn.

One satellite failed spectacularly – FSW 1-5, which did not return to the Earth when commanded to do so in October 1993. The satellite failed to rotate downward for the return to the Earth, but instead the engine fired in the direction of travel, propelling the FSW into a much higher orbit, as far out as 3,023 km. More critically, its perigee of 181 km was deteriorating fast, with the risk that the uncontrolled satellite might survive the fireball re-entry and crash on inhabited zones of our

planet. These developments were especially unfortunate, for FSW 1-5 was flying a number of unusual cargoes. In addition to scientific equipment, the cabin had 1,000 stamps, 3,000 first-day covers, credit cards, photos, 194 calling cards, and 235 ornaments and gold-studded medallions of Mao Zedong – apparently destined for sale to Japanese collectors, where such items reached premium prices. The media, as ever, warmed to the apocalyptic prospect of a rogue satellite plunging destructively to the Earth, only to be disappointed when, after several days of bouncing off the upper layers of the atmosphere, FSW 1-5 came down in the southern Atlantic on 12th March 1996.

The FSW 2 series was introduced in August 1992, even before the FSW 1 series had come to an end. Its principal innovation was the ability to maneuver in orbit, but there were other improvements. Compared to the FSW 1 series, the “2” model had a greater weight (3,100 kg), 53% heavier payload (350 kg), 20% greater cabin volume, and it could stay in orbit for up to 18 days. The length of the spacecraft was increased by a third to 4.6 m, with a much larger service module, part of which was pressurized. FSW 2 carried a more sophisticated attitude control system and an advanced computer. The much-increased size of the FSW 2 meant that it required a larger launch vehicle, the Long March 2D, an improved version of the 2C (although the C continued in operation for other missions).

FSW 2-1 (August 1992) was a dual-purpose mission, with both remote sensing

and microgravity experiments (in this case, cadmium, mercury, tellurium, and protein crystal growth). It used its maneuvering system to change orbit three times during the mission. The first attempt to re-enter, on the 12th day of the mission, failed but, after going through the procedures again carefully, ground controllers were successful on the 16th day. FSW 2-1 marked the first tests of protein crystal growth in orbit devised by professors Gong and Bi of the Institute of Biophysics of the Academy of Sciences. Sixty percent of proteins grew better than on the ground. There were 10 protein growth experiments in 48 cells, one including snake venom: crystals were grown in a multi-purpose finishing stove, a furnace able to provide heating of 813°C. The results were encouraging, with space crystals growing larger, more uniform, and clearer than the control group on the Earth. The Institute of Superconductors flew an experiment to make a perfect 10-mm single crystal, one of the four attempts being successful. This experiment was repeated on the later FSW 1­4 mission, this time with lithium crystals, 30 being grown. Both the cell culture experiment and microbial cultivation experiment were declared a success [8].

FSW 2-2 flew in July 1994 and also maneuvered in orbit; it carried an even more exotic cargo: rice, water melon, sesame seeds, and more animals. Fourteen protein crystals were tested, with much better results than on FSW 2-1, the experiment being repeated on shuttle mission STS-69, where three proteins were crystallized using a liquid diffusion method but, overall, that experiment was less successful. FSW 2-2 carried a tuber-like vapor diffusion apparatus. With 48 samples, nine proteins crystallized, the highest qualities coming from egg white, snake venom, and hemoglobin from the bareheaded goose. Twenty-two lithium crystals were also grown, the quality being more consistent than those grown on the Earth. DNA chromosomes were modified in large-grained rice [9].

FSW 2-3 carried Japanese microgravity experiments for the Japanese Marubeni Corporation with Waseda University, involving the development of indium and gallium mono-crystals. The Chinese materials processing experiments concerned the production of mono-crystalline silicon, photoconductive fiber with impurities of 10-7, and medicines to prevent hemophilia. China also carried its own microgravity materials processing experiments, as well as a biology package of insect eggs, algae, plant seeds, and small animals for the Shanghai Institute for Technical Physics. For the first time, the information collected by the satellite in orbit was stored on compact disk. FSW left, as normal, the equipment module behind in an orbit of 167— 293 km. In an innovation, its engines were re-lit on 11th November to lift it into a higher orbit of 212-299 km – a maneuver not explained at the time.


As had been the practice in the Russian space program, Chinese scientists used applications satellites to carry scientific instruments (equivalent Russian add-on packages were called пайка modules, “nauk” being the Russian word for “science”). These were flown on the first communications satellites in 1984 and 1986. Both the first, Shiyan Tongbu Tongxin Weixing, and the second, Shiyong Tongbu Tongxing Weixing 1, carried particle detectors (semi-conductor and electron detector, semi­conductor proton detector) and a broadband soft x-ray detector to measure solar bursts and resultant x-ray storms. Their purpose was to measure changes in the intensity of electrons and protons in 24-hr orbit, as well as static electricity on the spacecraft. A small telescope studied proton fluxes in the 10-30-MeV range and electrons from 0.5 MeV to 1 MeV. Solar bursts were detected and measured on 21st April 1984 and 4th February 1986. Solar x-rays were surveyed in the 1-8-A range.

Scientific instruments were then fitted to weather satellites. Feng Yun 1-1 carried equipment to detect cosmic rays, protons, and alpha particles, as well as carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and ion particles in the Earth’s radiation belts. Feng Yun 1-2 carried a cosmic ray composition monitor in the range of 4-23 MeV to detect and measure both solar proton events and galactic cosmic rays, and these were matched against readings at the Zhongshan Antarctic base. It detected helium, nitrogen, oxygen, heavy ion, and anomalous iron particles in the inner radiation belt and five solar proton events over September 1990 to February 1991. It flew through the inner radiation belt South Atlantic Anomaly and measured the changing intensities of protons, alpha particles, and carbon ion and iron atoms. Doing so at a time of solar maximum proved to be harmful to the satellite, for the radiation levels disrupted its logic board, causing a complete breakdown at one stage. Energetic particle detectors were designed to measure how heavy ions, protons, and electrons affect weather, one outcome being a mapping of the South Atlantic Magnetic Anomaly.

Feng Yun 1-2 carried two additional experiments – two balloons called Qi Qi 1 and 2 (the name Da Qi has also been used). Their purpose was to measure the density of the upper atmosphere between 400 km and 900 km, and they were tracked by seven ground stations. Made out of polyester film and measuring 2.5 m and 3 m in diameter, deployed in similar orbits, they decayed from orbit the following year, one in March, the other in July. Diagrams were duly published of fluctuations in atmospheric density over the first 90 days of the mission. They were the first scientific satellites to benefit from project 863. Combined with accurate ground observations, they proved to be a cheap but effective way of measuring atmospheric density during solar maximum.

1.00X lo‘ 4.64X Id’’ 2 15 X |(); I 00X I0? 4 MX I O’ 2.15 X |0: I. OOX |0′ 4.64 X I()’ 2.15x lo1

longitude ( )

The geosynchronous Feng Yun 2-1 carried a high-energy particle detector and solar x-ray detector to measure solar proton and high-energy particle events, while later 2-3 carried a solar x-ray detector to measure x-rays from the Sun above 4 keY in 10 channels and the results were compared to the American Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES). The spacecraft also carried two scientific detectors, one to measure 3-300-MeV protons and the other to measure

0. 15-5.70-MeV electrons. For 2008-09, they measured little, due to the solar

minimum, only finding electrons in the South Atlantic Magnetic Anomaly and around the North and South Poles. The problem of radiation damage to satellites operating in 24-hr orbit continued to bother the Chinese, for they fitted high-energy electron detectors to Feng Yun 2-3. They supplied three years of data, from 2005 to 2008, giving more accurate predictions of the frequency of upset events. Later FY-3s will be fitted with instruments to measure the ionosphere and auroras [10].


There was a gap of over four years between the launch of Shi Jian 1 (1971) and the next Chinese satellite (1975). In the event, the next series of satellites, which took place before the period of openness and modernizations, raised more questions than it answered. The series comprised three successful launches and three failures during the period 1973-76. The series has been mentioned but never described in the Chinese literature. In China, it was codenamed project 701. Construction of the Ji Shu Shiyan Weixing (JSSW) satellite had begun in early 1970 (hence “70” and “1”), although we know virtually nothing of its development or history. The program is important in illustrating early interest in the military application of satellites, the role of different design bureaus, news management, and the challenge of interpretation so, for these reasons, it is covered in detail.

Ji Shu Shiyan Weixing stands literally for “technical experimental satellite”. The term Chang Kong, or “Long Sky”, has also been applied to the series and in some places has been named Chang Kong 1, 2, and 3. JSSW may have been an attempt to develop a satellite for electronic intelligence gathering, then a dominant theme in the military satellite programs of the Soviet Union and the United States. No signals were ever heard abroad, so it is presumed that they transmitted only over China. The series took place at the same time as the development of the Chinese recoverable satellite program (Chapter 4) and, in the absence of information from China, the two series were confused several times (indeed, their orbital paths were not that different). When the first launching took place, the official, indeed bellicose, announcement appeared to confirm the military thrust of the program, stating that the satellite was part of “preparations for war”. The subsequent official history refers to the importance of the satellite entering a very precise orbit and small errors in perigee were simply not acceptable. Intriguingly, this was a familiar characteristic of some Soviet electronic ocean intelligence satellites so it is possible that the Chinese series had a similar purpose. Photographs of a cone-shaped satellite in the Shanghai plant were subsequently found that may be the missing JSSW [5].

Project 701 used a new launcher, the Feng Bao (“storm”), made in Shanghai and based loosely on the Dong Feng 5 missile. Responsibility for its development was assigned to the Shanghai #2 Bureau of Machinery and Electrical Equipment even though it had never built a rocket before in its life. There appear to be several reasons for the decision to build the new rocket in Shanghai. One was probably political – it was Mao Zedong’s power base and he probably liked to allocate pet projects there; a second was the desire to build the industrial base outside the national capital – Shanghai was the most advanced industrial city in the country; and a third may have been to follow the Soviet style of socialist competition in which design bureaus were encouraged to compete so as to drive up standards.

Despite its inexperience, the Shanghai team was resourceful in mobilizing the industrial and technological resources of the city and the region, using a research institute to build the rocket’s computer, the shipyards to weld its aluminum copper alloy tanks. In only 10 months, they built the Feng Bao, 192 tonnes in weight, 33 m tall, able to put 1,500 kg into orbit, the only Chinese rocket not in the Long March series.

The Feng Bao design was more ambitious, challenging, and demanding than the Long March and some aspects suffered from its rushed production. The first two launch attempts failed (18th September 1973 and 14th July 1974), but patience was rewarded on the third attempt. On 26th July 1975, the JSSW 1 entered orbit at 183— 460 km, 69°, 91 min. The launch announcement gave the barest details about the satellite (only orbital parameters), proffering instead a weighty political commentary on the current state of development of the proletarian revolutionary line. The 100-kg JSSW 1 decayed after 50 days in orbit, crashing into the atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean on 14th September 1975.

JSSW 2 entered orbit on 16th December 1975. This time, the launch announce­ment did not even give the orbital parameters, instead providing more appropriate information on the struggle against Lin Biao and Confucius. JSSW 2 flew 70 km lower than JSSW 1 (186-387 km, 69°, 90.2 min), burning up in the atmosphere after only 42 days. JSSW 3 came nine months later, on 30th August 1976, flying much further out than its predecessors (198-2,145 km, 69.2°). Like its two predecessors, it weighed 1,110 kg. The launch announcement gave even fewer details about the satellite (only the date), paying more attention to its political significance (this satellite marked the struggle against Deng Xiaoping and the right deviationists). JSSW 3 decayed in 817 days. None of the three satelhtes maneuvered in orbit.

The final JSSW launch took place on 10th November 1976, but it never reached orbit. The JSSW program then closed. This may have been because it did not achieve the intended results. Officially, they were technology test satellites, but it is not clear what technology was tested or how it was subsequently applied. Enquiries about them meet with cagey responses even to the present day. There have been two occasional glimpses of what the missions might have been. American aerospace experts visiting Shanghai Huayin Machinery Plant in 1979 were shown a domed cylinder 2.5 m tall, 1.7 m in diameter, weighing 1.2 tonnes, with 1 x 2-cm solar cells. They were told that China had launched three of them, each with 10-day missions – which fits the JSSW profile – but no more. A tantalizing slide along these lines was presented by a Chinese official giving a lecture in Stockholm in 1992. Many years later, the series remains obscure, the Western consensus being that their probable purpose was electronic intelligence. UnUke the case of the Soviet Union, where hitherto obscure missions have come out into the open through the histories of the design bureaus, this has not been the case in China. JSSW must have been important, for six were launched, even though only three reached orbit. The JSSWs set a standard for mystery, for later subsequent military missions such as the Yaogans and Shi Jian 6 and 11 series (Chapters 6 and 7) were to prove no less tantalizing.


Barely had the Long March 3B triumphantly returned to flight than China became embroiled in an acrimonious dispute with the United States – one heralding a long period of difficult relations that persists to the present. In June 1998, the House of Representatives voted 409:10 to set up a nine-strong special committee to investigate the transfer of space technology to China and appointed as chairperson California Republican Christopher Cox. The investigation arose from rising concerns that China had taken advantage of its contacts with the American space industry to acquire information useful for the construction and targeting of ballistic missiles and specifically that the satellite companies had insufficiently protected their satellites in transit to the launch pad. Hughes satellites used advanced technology arrays that could be used for electronic signals gathering, so there was perceived to be a high risk of technology transfer.

The setting-up of the investigation prompted bitter but largely inconclusive debates in Washington. Strictly speaking, the debate revolved around whether China was engaged in spying, obtaining classified information, applying it to an aggressive military rocket program, and compromising security-slack American companies in the process. In practice, the debate was a proxy for a broader political debate about American pohcy towards China and whether that should be one of containment (as it was prior to 1972), one of varying degrees of engagement (as it was under Nixon, Reagan, and Bush), or one of hostihty and confrontation. To complicate matters further, American commercial launcher companies stood to gain from the revoking of satellite export licenses to China. By contrast, the satellite manufacturers wished to deliver satellites on orbit to their customers at the lowest possible price: Chinese prices were much lower – but their lobby was quite weak in comparison. The picture was unusually partisan, for launcher companies were reported to make campaign donations to the Republicans and the satellite companies to the Democrats. From 1994, President Clinton had faced a hostile Republican Congress under Newt Gingrich which eventually impeached him. In the mid-1990s, the Republicans ran a spectacularly successful campaign to reshape China policy – one which endures to the present [2].

Cox’s report was massive, with 11 chapters covering missiles, satellites, computers, industry, and insurance. He painted a lurid picture of malevolent Chinese espionage going back to the day Tsien Hsue Shen fled the United States for Communist China, allegedly with American rocket blueprints. Although Tsien Hsue Shen had never been convicted of spying, Cox now determined that the charges against him were true. According to Cox, the Chinese had used, over decades and in a systematic way, fair means and foul, neutral scientific conferences, licensing arrangements, dual use military-civilian technologies, and straightforward spying to ferret out information on nuclear technology, computers, rockets, submarines, and atomic bombs. The satellite companies were attacked for exceeding the terms of their export licenses and carelessly giving away information that would enable China to improve the guidance systems of ballistic missiles – “treachery”, according to one congressman. In trying to fix the fairing failure that had caused the loss of the two CZ-2E rockets, the company concerned (Hughes) gave the Chinese information and advice that would help them in the development of warheads. When the Long March 3B exploded, the Chinese kept the Americans away from the crash site for five hours while they ransacked the American debris, stealing the encrypted chips on

Preparing a satellite for launch at Xi Chang. It was at this stage that the Americans believed that it was vulnerable to interference. Courtesy: US Congress.

the lost Intelsat 708, so it was alleged. Even though the Cox report was full of inaccuracies and errors, the inflammatory charges stuck.

The Cox report relied heavily on the “dual-use” argument, which was that information obtained for legitimate civilian purposes could equally be used for military: rocket guidance systems designed to put comsats in the right orbit could equally target nuclear warheads, for example. The concept of dual use is something which the Chinese understand. During the debate on the adoption of the manned space program, when arguments raged about whether China should prioritize military development or civilian science, Deng Xiaoping intervened to argue that technology should serve both. Such dialectical solutions to political problems were not uncharacteristic of the leadership, but did not necessarily mean a systematic campaign to obtain such technologies from abroad by deception.

Even before the report was published, the Congress made up its mind. It did not ban the export of satellites to China outright but, reclassifying them as munitions of war, transferred responsibility for their licensing from the Department of Commerce to the Department of State, to ensure that defense considerations were uppermost in licensing decisions, rather than trade. Comsats were put on what was called the United States Munitions List (USML), making them weapons of war and unexportable, later systematized as the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). The congressional decisions nevertheless had the politically desired effect of slowing satellite trade with China to a standstill. The Department of State did not have sufficient officials to process export licenses, so approvals slowed to waiting periods of 18 months or more, making flying satellites on Chinese launchers an unattractive proposition. Any export worth over $50m to China also had to get congressional approval in any case. Three Western satellites were still manifested to fly on the Long March at this stage and their customers quickly understood that if they were going to reach orbit, it would not be via China. The Long March 3B missions in 1997 were the last Western communications satellites launched by China

The main pad at Xi Chang. The Cox report effectively grounded the use of China’s launchers for commercial Western satellites. Courtesy: Cindy Liu.

for some time and the Long March 2E was never used again. The two satellite manufacturers, Hughes and Loral, were pursued through the courts and put under extreme pressure to admit liability, and they eventually made settlements with the Department of Defense. In the aftermath, Hughes, which went as far back as Howard Hughes in 1934, was taken over by Boeing and Loral bankrupted.

The Cox report had a long-term, venomous effect on American-Chinese relations. When the world space congress took place in Houston, Texas, in October 2002, the American government barred half the Chinese representatives from attending, either refusing visas or putting other bureaucratic obstacles in their way. Those who did attend were searched or closely followed by a dozen FBI agents hired to mind them. The head of the Chinese delegation, Luan Enjie, the director of the China National Space Administration, was left stranded on the Canadian border, forlornly awaiting a visa, and eventually returned home. It got worse. Allegations were made that China was a serial proliferator to hostile governments, such as North Korea, lased American satellites so as to blind them, and even mounted a cyberattack on NASA so as to exfiltrate data on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. According to the National Security Division of the Department of Justice, Chinese spying was extensive. The Great Wall Industry Company was sanctioned in 2006 for supplying equipment to Iran, these sanctions being eventually lifted in summer 2008. Its assets were frozen by the US federal government and it was forbidden from doing business with American companies. The lifting of the sanctions followed commitments to monitor its trading activities more closely and not to have any dealings with countries considered prohferation risks, like Iran.

The impact of Cox became evident in so many ways. When China’s first astronaut, Yang Liwei, visited the United States in 2004, he did so as a private guest and NASA could have no formal contact with him. In February 2008, a 72-year-old Californian and Rockwell engineer, Dongfan Chong, was indicted for passing technical information about the Shuttle to China, even though it was an unclassified program dating to the early 1970s. When the Chinese approached NASA about the possibility of having some experiments fly on the International Space Station (ISS), one leading congressman was having none of it and was quoted by the press as saying that he would not tolerate “a bunch of Nazis running around our space station”. When NASA administrator Sean O’Keefe was later asked about cooperation with China, he told journalists that he was happy to cooperate, but, he added stiffly, was bound by the rules laid down by the State Department.

The main consequences for China were not a highly visible diplomatic and media exchange, but commercial. As a result of the tighter export restrictions, a series of customers walked with their satellites, such as Atlantic Bird and Protostar, simply because they had American components. The Cox report had the desired effect: Chinese revenues from launching satellites fell from $148m in 1997 to $23m in 1999 and nil for each year 2000-05 in a global market worth between $1 bn in a weak year and $2.7bn in a good one [3].

One commercial area was spared. China was successful in 1995 in negotiating a deal with the Motorola corporation. It booked a series of Long March 2C launches to low Earth orbit for 22 of its revolutionary new global communications system of

Iridium satellites (the full system was 66 satellites). Iridium was a mobile phone system that by-passed masts, messages being passed on from one low-flying satelhte to another until it was downloaded to the appropriate point on the far side of the world. The actual phone, though, was quite large at a time when ordinary mobile phones were fitting into ever-smaller pockets.

The Long March 2C was adapted with a special dispenser (SD) for the Iridium system, able to launch Iridiums in pairs, and was renamed the CZ-2C-SD. Over 1997-9, China launched its Long March 2C-SDs six times, putting into orbit 12 Iridiums from Taiyuan. Everything went completely smoothly – until the Iridium project collapsed in bankruptcy in 1999. Ironically, granted the political exchanges over security, the Chinese-launched satellites were then taken over by the Department of Defense for its military communications network. Iridium’s other legacy was visual: although the Iridium satellites were not particularly large (between 650 and 670 kg in mass), they had a big solar panel, which, as it turned in orbit, created a bright 3-4-sec flash frequently visible from the ground in evening skies to astronomers and casual skywatchers. They became known as “Iridium flares” and watching them has amused many an amateur astronomer. The launches in the series are Usted in Table 5.4.

Table 5.4. Iridium series.

Demonstration Iridium 42, 44 Iridium 51, 61 Iridium 69, 71 Iridium 3, 76

Iridium 11 A, 20A Iridium 14A, 21A

All on CZ-2C-SD from Taiyuan.


The see-saw battle over China policy continued unabated between the White House and the Congress. Neither NASA nor the American scientific community had a particular axe to grind with China, while the international partners of the United States in space exploration did not share the same problems of doing business with China.

As far back as 1997, astronauts Shannon Lucid and Jerry Ross had visited China, but it was a private visit to a scientific conference. In the period immediately after Cox, anything more would have been impossible. The first NASA visit to China, which followed persistent Chinese invitations, came in September 2006, led by NASA administrator Michael Griffin. The six-person delegation included the head of space operations, William Gerstenmaier, and, for the second time, astronaut and Mir veteran Shannon Lucid, who had been born in and spent some of her youth in

Shanghai. Their five-day itinerary included space facilities in Beijing (the Chinese Academy of Space Technology (CAST) and the Beijing National Satellite Meteorological Centre) and Shanghai (Academy of Sciences Technical and Physical Research Institute, inspecting Chang e instruments) and originally included Jiuquan launch center (but the Americans declined when they learned they could only see the launch pads). The visit was permitted by the White House and State Department on the basis that it was exploratory, focused on scientific cooperation, and that discussion on participation in the ISS was off-limits (as a result, there was no visit to manned spaceflight facilities). Even then, there was congressional criticism of the visit to “an enemy”. The only concrete result was an agreement on data sharing from the forthcoming lunar missions of both sides, the Chang e and the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. A second meeting took place two years later in July 2008 at deputy director level, where they agreed to establish a working group on Earth science.

Prospects for reconciliation brightened when Barrack Obama became president in January 2009, although it was clear from the start that both commercialization and the ISS would be off-limits – there simply was not the congressional support for either. On 22nd September 2009, two American astronauts, Fred Gregory and Tom Hendricks, visited China, to be entertained by astronauts Yang Liwei and Zhai Zhigang and others in training. The visit was organized by the non-governmental Space Foundation, thereby avoiding political comphcations for the administration. The American group was brought to visit CAST and was shown, in assembly, Tiangong, Shenzhou 8, and Chang e 2.

In November 2009, President Barack Obama signed an agreement with President Hu Jintao in Beijing formally agreeing cooperation in space science, human spaceflight, and space exploration. In October 2010, NASA administrator Charles Bolden visited China, followed by an industry delegation organized by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Bolden was welcomed inside the control center in Jiuquan, not reached by Griffin. Later, in summer 2011, the Obama administration sent proposals to the Congress for a unified licensing regime to operate through the Department of Commerce – one that would include commercial satellites and ultimately make it easier for satellites to fly on Chinese launchers.

Relations with China nose-dived once more in spring 2011 when congressman Frank Wolf, chairperson of the house committee for commerce, justice, and science, successfully inserted an amendment into the federal budget to ban all contact between NASA and the Chinese.1 He had long gone on the record as saying that

The text is: None of the funds made available may be used for NASA or the Office of Science and Technology to develop, design, plan, promulgate, implement or execute a bilateral policy, program, order or contract of any kind to participate, collaborate or coordinate bilaterally in any way with China or any Chinese owned company unless such activities are specifically authorized by a law enacted after the date of enactment of this devision. The limitation shall also apply to funds used to effectuate the hosting of official Chinese visitors at facilities belonging to or utilized by NASA (minor editing for purposes of brevity).

NASA had no business cooperating with China. President Obama signed the budget because negotiations on it had proved extremely problematical and led to a stand-off between the Congress and the White House that went right to the wire, with the federal government coming to within hours of closing down. The Wolf clause, as it was called, not only prohibited NASA from any collaboration with China or Chinese companies, but prevented the use of funds to host Chinese visitors at NASA facilities. An immediate consequence was that Chinese journalists, who had arrived at Cape Canaveral to watch the launch of the Space Shuttle Endeavour with an experiment that included Chinese scientist Samuel Ting, were sent packing. Ting was a Nobel physics prize winner and a contributor the Alpha Magnetic spectrometer being launched by Endeavour, one of the most ambitious scientific projects on the ISS.


The objective of Shenzhou 6-а week-long flight by two astronauts – was announced the following year. The launcher and cabin were completed in June 2005 and shipped by rail to the launch site. Over 100 modifications were documented, compared to the earlier mission. A toilet, based on the system on Mir, had been added. The launch date leaked out in August, along with the names of the crews. Selected for the mission were Fei Junlong, aged 40, commander, and Nie Haisheng, aged 41, flight engineer. Backups were Wu Jie, aged 42, and Zhai Zhigang, aged 39, with, as support crew, Jing Haipeng, aged 39, and Liu Buoming, aged 39. The system for dealing with the press was more organized this time, with a proper system of accreditation put in place. Prime Minister Wen Jiabao arrived the night before the launch on 12th October 2005. President Hu Jintao opted to watch from mission control in Beijing.

Nie Haisheng was born deep inside China, in Yangdang, Zaoyang, Hubei, in 1964. His family was so poor and found such difficulty in paying for his education that he once had to give his teacher a rabbit in lieu of money. He borrowed textbooks, unable to afford any for himself, learning them by heart before returning them. Only two students from Yangdang Primary School made it to secondary school in his year and he had to work herding cattle through his holidays to pay his fees. He persuaded a visiting commissar to give him a chance in the Air Force. There, he excelled and was decorated for trying to save his plane when it spun out of control as a result of a compressor failure. He would not bail out until the last possible moment, but eventually did so, parachuting unconscious into a rice field.

Fei Junlong and Nie Haisheng suited up in their Sokol suits, emerged from the preparation area, saluted, and reported to the base commander and, to applause from flower-carrying well-wishers, boarded the minibus to bring them down to the pad. Snow flurries were blowing as they entered the Shenzhou 6 cabin in darkness at 06:15. Live television coverage from Jiuquan began an hour before take-off and viewers could see the rocket still clamped in its gantry. With two minutes to go, the cameras settled on the rocket ready on the daylight pad. After a brief burst of brown and orange flame, the CZ-2F lifted slowly off the pad at 09:00. It rose steadily,

discarding debris at 25 sec and going into cloud at 45 sec. Pictures showed the two yuhangyuan in their spacious cabin.

The rocket emerged from the cloud and bent over in its climb to the north-east. The escape tower blew away in a burst of light. Look-back cameras installed on the side of the CZ-2F showed spectacular pictures of the boosters falling away and tumbling back over Gansu, where some of the fragments were later found by herdsmen. Television coverage alternated between the look-back views, the two men in the cabin, and mission control in Beijing and its screen showing the parameters of the flight path to orbit. In the event of a launch emergency, four downrange landing sites (Jiuquan east, Yinchuan, Yulin, and Handau) and three sea sites were marked (Yellow Sea, East China Sea, and Pacific Ocean).

At 09:13, Shenzhou 6 entered 193-337 km, 42.4°, 91 min, 31-repeater orbit over the Chinese coast, clearly visible below. As it crossed over the Pacific, television from the cabin flickered and was interrupted as Shenzhou was picked up by Yuan Wang 2. Fei Junlong and Nie Haisheng waved to viewers and opened their faceplates. In the course of the first orbit, they were picked up in turn by the other Yuan Wang in the Indian and Atlantic Oceans.

At 10:31, Kashi ground station acquired Shenzhou 6 as it came over western China. By 11:00, the two men were hungry after their early start and lunch break was declared. Shenzhou 6 had entered an elliptical orbit but, at 4:00 pm, on the fifth orbit, the path was circularized at the standard 343 km. At 17:31, Fei Junlong opened the hatch into the orbital module – an operation not carried out on Shenzhou 5 – so they now had the use of the two cabins. The mission settled down into a standard routine and, from that evening, the yuhangyuan spoke to their families in mission control. By this stage, they had taken off their spacesuits and put on their blue coveralls. Shenzhou carried 50 kg of oxygen in tanks: typically, each astronaut consumed 900 g of oxygen a day but exhaled 1 kg of carbon dioxide. Each astronaut drank 2.5 kg of water and ate 600 g of food worth 2,800 kcal a day. The suit weighed 11 kg and could last 6 hr in the event of a depressurization – enough time to return home. Television showed them writing their logs, eating, photographing the Earth, and moving about the cabin, making the occasional somersault. They spoke to President Hu Jintao.

On 14th October at 05:56, a second orbital correction was carried out on the 30th orbit to raise the perigee back to 343 km. In the event of an emergency return to the Earth, 13 sites were selected: in China, Sichuan, and Mongolia and, further afield, Australia, Arabia, North Africa, Western Europe, the United States, and South America. But the flight was uneventful and there was little to report as the mission progressed, even in the Chinese press (there was almost no coverage in the Western media). The official cost of the mission was reported in at ¥900m (€90m). They looked out for the Great Wall, reportedly visible from space, but didn’t see it, presuming that it blended in naturally with its surroundings. They brushed their teeth with a form of chewing gum developed as a mouth cleaner.

17th October was recovery day. Leading dignitaries arrived at the mission control center in Beijing. Shenzhou 6 rotated to the right attitude for its re-entry burn on the 80th orbit. On the ground, six helicopters and 14 cross-country vehicles

Shenzhou 6 crew in the cabin – much more spacious than Soyuz.

readied themselves at the primary landing site of Siziwang, Jiuquan being the backup site.

The cabin went into re-entry at 04:07, came out of blackout at 04:18, and was picked up on radar. The main parachute came out at 04:19, with touchdown at 04:33. It was still dark in the recovery area and the first helicopter arrived at 04:53, reporting that the cabin was upright. The recovery squad moved in. Fei Junlong emerged from the cabin at 05:38, followed by Nie Haisheng a minute later. By the time they were lifted out, a small crowd had gathered to cheer them. They were put into easy chairs and offered tea, chocolate, and noodle soup. The landing was covered live on TV, with an outside broadcast from the home of the two sets of relieved and tearful parents. It was later revealed that, in the event of things going wrong during re-entry, the cabin had a survivable black box (although it was orange) measuring 17 x 10 x 20 cm and able to resist 1,000° temperatures and 10,000 G.

The 75-orbit mission had lasted for 115 hr 32 min. The cabin was in good condition and handed over two days later to its builder, CAST, at Changping railway station. The cabin was later put on display in the small museum at the astronaut training facility. Fei Junlong and Nie Haisheng reached Beijing at 09:28 on a special plane and were greeted by a band, flowers, and applause from well-wishers. Fei Junlong was promoted to General and was put in charge of the astronaut squad in 2012.

The mission of its orbital module continued, with occasional reports in the

Chinese press. After an initial period operating at 333-336 km, with occasional adjustments to maintain the 31-orbit repeater, on 21st January 2006 and 19th March, it raised its orbit back to a standard operating height of 343-356 km. On 28th May, after seven months, its orbit had fallen slightly to 337-339 km, so a small maneuver was made to raise it back to its operational altitude of 347-356 km. The decay rate was slow because of the solar minimum, which happened to be an exceptionally quiet minimum, causing much-reduced rates of friction in the upper atmosphere. A similar height-raising maneuver was made on 12th September. It raised its orbit on 7th February 2007 to 346-356 km, which had no obvious repeater. The orbit was raised again on 6th June 2007. Its mission eventually ended on 1st April 2008 after about 30 months. Reports on scientific experiments were not readily available and it is possible that they were not carried.


The Long March 2 was introduced with the recoverable satellite program (Chapter 4) and three versions are still in service:

1. Long March 2C, which introduced the FSW recoverable satelhte program in 1975;

2. Long March 2D, which introduced heavier, recoverable FSW satelhtes from 1992;

3. Long March 2F, used for Shenzhou and the Tiangong, also called Shenjian.

In addition, a heavy version, the Long March 2E, was used for Western communications satelhtes over 1990-95 (see Chapter 5). It flew seven times (with two failures) and is discontinued.

The Long March 2A made one flight in November 1974, the first attempt to put a recoverable satelhte into orbit. When it failed, the rocket was redesigned and called the Long March 2C. The Long March 2B was a canceled design for a version to carry a small payload to 24-hr orbit. The original role of the Long March 2C was to put recoverable satelhtes into orbit, the FSW series (see Chapter 4). As such, it put 14 satelhtes into orbit over 1975-93, all successfully (one was not recovered, but that was not the fault of the launcher). During a typical mission, the Long March 2C rocket begins to pitch over into its flight trajectory 10 sec after lift-off. Staging takes

Tractors pull the CZ-2C down to the pad – quite different from Soviet rail practice.

place at exactly 2 min: it is a hot staging, with explosive bolts detonating the now – expired first stage, which falls away a second later. Twenty explosive bolts fire to separate and release the fairing over the payload at 230 sec, the second-stage engine completes its burn, and the payload is released at 569 sec. Telemetry relays back as many as 300 different parameters during launch.

The Long March 2C series might have ended in 1993 had it not been for the American Motorola company, which booked the Long March 2C for 11 double launches of its Iridium global telecommunications satellite (22 satellites altogether). The 2C was adapted with a longer second stage (2 m longer) and what is called a “smart dispenser” (SD), designed to spring the small comsats into orbit. The Taiyuan site was used for these flights, which flew into a new, higher orbit of 700 km at 58°E. This launcher is referred to as the Long March 2C-SD. A test of the SD was made on 1st September 1997, following which seven successful launches took place before Iridium filed for bankruptcy. A further refinement, the CTS was used for the Chinese-European Doublestar project in 2003. The launcher continued to operate for some time, experiencing a rare failure on 18th August 2011 when attempting to put into orbit Shi Jian 11-4. It transpired that the connection between the servo­mechanism and the second-stage vernier engine §3 failed during the later stages of the ascent.

The Long March 2D was introduced in 1992 to carry the heavier, third generation of FSW recoverable spacecraft, the FSW 2. The payload of the Long March 2D was 600 kg more, at 3,400 kg. The launcher was heavier (237 tonnes), with improved performance in a number of areas. With FSW 3-1 in 2003, a stretched version with fins was introduced, sometimes called the 2D2, and it used the new manned launch pad.

For China’s manned spaceflight, the Long March 2 was adapted and upgraded. Fifty-five engineering changes were made to make it capable of manned flight. President Jiang Zemin bestowed on it his own name, the Shenjian, or “magic arrow”, in 2002, though this is rarely used. The principal difference – and most obvious visual change – was the addition of an escape tower based on the Russian design for the Soyuz spacecraft. In the event of a mishap either on the pad or in the first 160 sec of flight, the tower fires, pulling Shenzhou rapidly high and clear of the rogue rocket. Once the thrust is exhausted (after only a few seconds), the cabin drops out of the bottom of the tower. This is a tricky maneuver, for the three Shenzhou modules must then separate very quickly, giving the descent cabin time to get free, deploy its parachute, and fill it with air. Four retardant panels are deployed on the tower to slow its fall and avert the danger of its tangling with the cabin. All this must be done in seconds. Assuming all goes well, the normal trajectory of ascent to orbit is 586 sec, at which point mission control in Beijing assumes control. The tower is jettisoned at
130 sec, the strap-ons at 160 sec, the fairing at 200 sec. For the Tiangong, the 2F was adapted to carry 8.7 tonnes, requiring a new launch shroud, but without the escape tower and numerous less-visible modifications. Details of the CZ-2 are given in Table 3.4.