Category China in Space


The next step of the mission was to bring an unmanned spacecraft up to Tiangong. China had never carried out an orbital docking before and, for that reason, was unwilling to risk a crew on a first mission. The Russians had carried out two automatic dockings in 1967 and 1968 before proceeding to a manned one in 1969. The manned Chinese spacecraft, Shenzhou, was well able to fly automatically and



SIMBOX, the German scientific package on Shenzhou 8. Courtesy: DLR.

the first four flights had been without a crew. Shenzhou itself had a number of improvements compared to earlier models: apart from the rendezvous and docking system, it had an on-orbit design life of 180 days, meaning that it could stay attached to a space station for up to six months. To maintain proficiency in life-support systems, though, Shenzhou 8 carried two rubber-made dummy astronauts. The Soviet Union had likewise flown dummies in advance of its first manned mission, with some unexpected results: when rural villagers reached the landed cabin before the recovery crews, they were found trying to “revive” what they took to be a badly injured cosmonaut!

In the third seat was SIMBOX, an unusual international collaborative experiment. The SIMBOX (Science In Microgravity BOX) was a joint experiment with the German space agency, the DLR. It was a 25-kg, 34-liter experimental box with 40 units for fish, algae, plants, bacteria, worms, and cancer cells, designed to make immunology tests. It was big enough to include a small aquarium, as well as the pumps, lighting, and sensors necessary to support them. Of the 17 SIMBOX experiments, 10 were Chinese, six German, and one joint. It was built in Friedrichshafen in southern Germany by Astrium with seven German universities (Erlangen, Hohenheim, Magdeburg, Tubingen, Freiburg, Hamburg, and Berlin). One German-Chinese experiment was to test the crystallization of proteins. Another experiment involved testing the production of food, oxygen, and clean water in anticipation of long-duration spaceflight.

Shenzhou 8 arrived at Jiuquan on 23rd September even before its target, Tiangong, had left. Lift-off was at 21:58 UT on 31st October, but the following morning locally. Television cameras showed Shenzhou 8 lifting into the night sky, followed by a contrail in the cold upper atmosphere. Look-back cameras on the top stage imaged the bottom stage falling away, to cheers in mission control. Shenzhou was in orbit 10 min later at 261-314 km, 42.8°. Practical astronomers on the ground followed the two spacecraft as they crossed the sky near Beijing as two bright but unblinking, fast-moving stars. Tiangong was like a magnitude + 2 star, the same as Polaris, the North Pole Star.

While Tiangong carried flags, Shenzhou 8 carried with it “the dreams of thousands”: in an internet competition, China Space News invited its 12m viewers to


Shenzhou 8 launch. Most Shenzhou missions have launched at night, showing vividly the colors of the fuels used by the rocket. Courtesy: DLR.


Sketch of Tiangong and Shenzhou, giving a clear picture of their relative sizes. Courtesy: Mark Wade.



contribute their dreams of the future, some 42,891 being selected. They were installed on a microchip, to be recovered after the landing, the dreamers being entitled to download a certificate of authenticity from the site afterwards.

When it entered orbit, Shenzhou was 10,000 km behind Tiangong. By this stage, the station’s orbit had dropped down to 328-338 km. Shenzhou adjusted its orbit five times to close the distance over the following two days. Shenzhou’s radar picked up Tiangong at a distance of 200 km, following which it turned on its optical and laser sensors and microwave radar. On 2nd November, by the time of final approach at an altitude of 340 km, Shenzhou was closing in on the station in darkness at a rate of 20 cm/sec. Once the two docking rings met, Tiangong’s 12 hooks engaged to pull the two spacecraft together and a hard dock was confirmed 12 min later. Docking took place at 17:28 UT on 2nd November. It was Tiangong’s 542nd orbit. They remained locked hard together for the next 12 days.

To make sure that the docking was not just a lucky first, a second test was built into the mission. On 14th November at 11:27, Shenzhou 8 withdrew to 140 m from Tiangong. The purpose of the exercise was to repeat the docking, but in much brighter sunlit conditions, which would be a more demanding test of the optical systems. This exercise took 30 min and the spacecraft were reattached at 11:53 UT. The joined spacecraft could be spotted from the ground as a magnitude 0 star. Pictures of the link-up were relayed to the ground using the Tian Lian 1 and 2 data relays, which, between them, provided unbroken communications. This was the exercise that Liu Wang was to follow seven months later.

On 16th November at 10:30, Shenzhou undocked for the second time, moving away to 5 km before beginning preparations for return to the Earth. After 24 hr, the orbital module at the front was separated and then the service module at the back before the cabin headed into re-entry. Eleven kilometres above the Earth, a static pressure altitude annunciator-controller commanded the drogue, brake, and main parachutes to open, with the cabin fully under the main parachute by 6 km. Shenzhou 8 was down on the ground at 11:32 UT on the 17th, experiments removed, and the cabin swiftly returned to Beijing for analysis. German scientists retrieved their SIMBOX. Shenzhou 8’s orbital module eventually decayed out of Earth orbit on 2nd April 2012.

Tiangong raised its orbit to 360 km on 18th November. Air quality in the laboratory was checked regularly. During the interval, the tracking ships Yuan Wang 3 and 5 returned to their home ports in January, Yuan Wang 6 making it back in February after a 154-day cruise of 50,000 km. In the meantime, there was a good science return from the Tiangong station, reported chief designer Qi Faren. Instruments were giving back readings on space weather, energetic particles, magnetic fields, and atmospheric density, while another technical experiment was testing fuel cells as a power supply for future spacecraft. Fuel cells had been used as far back as 1965 on Gemini 5 to generate electrical power, oxygen, and water, and had subsequently been used in both the American and Russian space programs.

Although the next Shenzhou had been expected at the end of March, in February, there was a flurry of confused reports. First, the mission was off until the summer


Examining the German SIMBOX samples. Courtesy: DLR.


Yuan Wang tracking ship. These are large ocean-going ships able to stay at sea for months at a time, often in heavy seas.



and would be unmanned, raising questions that the previous autumn’s maneuvers had been unsuccessful. Eventually, there was a formal statement that the mission would indeed fly in the summer, between June and August, but it would definitely be manned. There had been no particular difficulties with Shenzhou 8, it was confirmed, but no reason was given for the new schedule. Increased solar activity had reduced Tiangong’s orbit, so it was raised on 23rd March back to 364 km. Tiangong readjusted its orbit to prepare for the forthcoming Shenzhou 9 on 26th May and on 11th and 14th June.

The first missions to Tiangong were given dramatic effect by a film distributed throughout China. The film Flying was issued by the August First Film Studio, the cultural wing of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The studio enlisted the help of the Asia Speed of Light Technology Company to create the special effects, which involved full-sized Shenzhou and Tiangong models, spacesuits, robot arms, and impressive digital simulations of weightlessness and space walks so as to ensure the maximum possible authenticity. Filming took five months and included some sequences shot in Star Town in Moscow. The film was based on the upcoming Tiangong mission but, for dramatic effect, Shenzhou 10 was involved in a collision in space and running out of air. Two men and a woman, led by hero Zhang Tiancong, had to launch within seven days to rescue the stranded yuhangyuan [3].


China’s newest launch site is Hainan, a large but poorly known island to the south­east of China with a maritime border with Vietnam. It rose briefly to prominence when an American EP-3 spy-plane was forced down there in early 2001 and its crew interned. A sounding rocket site was built on its west coast in the mid-1980s, where it was used for five Weaver Girl sounding rockets over 1988-91, missions resuming in 2011.

First reports that Hainan might be used as a new, large-scale space base came in 2000. Hainan offered a location closer to the equator than Xi Chang and better communications, especially for outsized components such as the upcoming large Long March 5 rocket. Hainan promised a 7.4% payload advantage on Xi Chang, sea-based delivery of rocket stages, and launches out over the ocean, conferring a considerable safety advantage. The precise location selected was east of Wenchang, a city of 520,000 (small by Chinese standards) on the north-east of the island, 65 km from Haikou. The precise location was Longlou on the Tonggu Jiao peninsula

Taiyuan Launch Center


Technical Center Satellite Testing Faciity


Taiyuan launch center map, showing its two pads. Courtesy: Mark Wade.

jutting out from the north-eastern shore of Hainan Island on a site 19.658/19.678°N and 111.013°E. To clear the site, though, it is estimated that up to 6,000 people were relocated.

Hainan is a two-part operation. The three existing launch sites – Jiuquan, Xi Chang, and Taiyuan – were dependent on the railway system, which limited the girth of rockets to be transported to 3.35 m. The new Long March 5 was more than 5 m in diameter, which could not be transported on the railways. Instead, they required an even older system of transportation: the sea-going barge. It was decided to build the new rockets on the Chinese mainland in Tianjin in northern China just south-east of Beijing – already part of the grand canal of China – and then transport them down the coast to the new launch site on Hainan, in much the same way as the Americans transported large rocket stages and tanks from the southern states around the coast to Cape Canaveral.

Early Taiyuan, set in low, rolling hills.

The official soil-turning ceremony in Hainan took place on 14th September 2009 and was given much publicity in the Chinese press. Set picturesquely amidst coconut groves, the launch site was a 20-km2 area only 3,000 m from the coast. The new site was strongly promoted and part-financed by the Hainan regional government, which hoped to attract in foreign investment (e. g. Japan), high-tech industries, and tourism. The initial cost of construction was estimated at ¥7.4bn (€500m). Later, it was promised to build a visitor center and entertain visitors with a model lunar landscape. A museum would house the Shenzhou 1, 2, and 3 cabins. The island is potentially a major tourist resort, boasting white sand beaches, mangrove forests, and Confucian temples.

Substantial progress had been made by 2012. Construction was well under way for two pads, one for the CZ-5, the other for the CZ-7, the rockets to be transported there on a 2,800-m trackway from a double vehicle assembly building. The site buzzed with cranes, trucks, and cement mixers. Work had also begun on two island tracking stations, one at Tongguling, 5 km to the east, and the second in the Xisha Islands (also called the Paracel Islands), far to the south-east.

Simultaneously, construction began of a rocket manufacturing plant in the new industrial area at Binhai, near Tianjin. Ground of a 313-ha site was broken here on 30th October 2009, construction costing an initial ¥1.5bn (€180m) with a final completion cost of ¥10bn. Binhai will make 12 CZ-5s a year, its centerpiece being a 220,000-m2 workshop. The first spacecraft processing facility was completed in 2009 and up to 21,000 people were working there by 2011 [5].

For the sake of completeness, one should mention military rocket bases. The principal base is in Harbin, Manchuria (location: 45.8°N, 126.7°E), home of China’s main silo-based Inter Contintental BalUstic Missile (ICBM) strike force, dating to 1981. The base built up to a complement of four Dong Feng 5 A missiles by 1992 and 20 by the turn of the century, their present level. To prevent accidental launches, warheads are kept separate from these rockets, which are not fuelled – a system called de-alerting. In addition, China’s strike force comprises 10-15 solid-fuelled road-mobile DF-31As of shorter range, with the future prospect of one or two Julang (“great wave”) nuclear submarines, each with 12 Polaris-type missiles. China has two minor missile bases: Xyanhua (40.36°N, 115.03°E) and Luoning (34.23°N, 111.39°E). So much for the launch sites. Next we turn to China’s families of launchers.


The FSW series evolved through three phases. It was originally intended to test a recoverable system and as a precursor for manned spaceflight (see Chapter 8). When the early manned program was cancelled, it was used for Earth observations, military and civilian, although only limited civilian results were published and none military. The photographic role continued to the end, when it was divided along Soviet lines of close-look and area surveys. From 1987, the program developed a third role, in biological, life sciences, and materials processing experiments of ever greater sophistication, using improved and more versatile designs, the most recent exemplar being Shi Jian 8, with a successor, Shi Jian 10, still to come. In the end, it turned into a multi-purpose program of military and civil photography and scientific and applications experiments. The only other country with a similar capacity in recoverable cabins was Russia, with its Bion and Foton series. The series is summarized in Table 4.2.

Table 4.2. FSW series.


FSW identifier

Launch date

Recovery date



FSW 0-1

26 Nov 1975

29 Nov

First Chinese satellite recovered


FSW 0-2

7 Dec 1976

10 Dec

Second test flight


FSW 0-3

26 Jan 1978

29 Jan

Third test flight


FSW 0-4

9 Sep 1982

24 Aug

First operational 5-day mission


FSW 0-5

19 Aug 1983

24 Aug


FSW 0-6

12 Sep 1984

17 Sep

Land survey


FSW 0-7

21 Oct 1985

26 Oct

Survey of Chinese land mass


FSW 0-8

6 Oct 1986

11 Oct

Splashed down in lake


FSW 0-9

5 Aug 1987

10 Aug

First materials processing mission


FSW 1-1

9 Sep 1987

17 Sep

Gallium arsenide, algae


FSW 1-2

5 Aug 1988

13 Aug

Three German experiments


FSW 1-3

5 Oct 1990

13 Oct

Guinea pigs on board


FSW 1-4

9 Oct 1992

13 Oct

Semiconductor, protein


(FSW 1-5

8 Oct 1993

Recovery failed)


FSW 2-1

9 Aug 1992

25 Aug

16-day mission


FSW 2-2

3 Jul 1994

18 Jul

13 days


FSW 2-3

20 Oct 1996

4 Nov

15 days, Japanese cargo


FSW 3-1

3 Nov 2003

21 Nov

18-day mission


FSW 3-2

29 Aug 2004

24 Sep

27 days, close look


FSW 3-3

27 Sep 2004

15 Oct

17 days, area survey


FSW 3-4

2 Aug 2005

29 Aug

27 days, close look


FSW 3-5

29 Aug 2005

15 Sep

18 days, area survey


Shi Jian 8

9 Sep 2006

24 Sep

15 days, seeds mission

Some Western experts have taken the view that FSW was primarily a military photo-reconnaissance series, imaging the Earth with film recovered from the landed cabin, like the Russian Zenit and Yantar series. The other experiments were, in effect, add-ons to take advantage of spare cabin space. There is strong evidence to support the military photographic role in the use, by the Chinese, of Jian Bing designators which are suggestive of a military purpose. Phil Clark, the British expert who analyzed the behavior, orbital patterns, and maneuvers of Soviet photo­reconnaissance satellites, noticed a similar pattern of area-survey and close-look missions in the FSW series. What appears to be the end of FSW series coincides with the start of the Yaogan program (Chapter 6), which appears to have the capacity for digital imaging, making the film-recovery system of FSW outdated. Concluding the chapter, Table 4.3 is a technical summary of the FSW series under its Jian Bing designators.

Table 4.3. Technical summary of FSW spacecraft under Jian Bing designators.



Typical parameters


Jian Bing 1-1 FSW 0-1 to 0-4



1,800 kg

172-484 km 57°, 59°, 63°

3 days, remote sensing, photography

Jian Bing 1-2 FSW 0-5 to 0-9 1982-87 CZ-2C

1,840 kg

173^400 km 57°, 63°, 67°

5 days, remote sensing, photography

Jian Bing 1A FSW 1



2,100 kg

208-310 km 57°, 63°

8 days, remote sensing, photography, microgravity

Jian Bing IB FSW 2 CZ-2D 1992-96

3,100 kg

172-340 km 63°, maneuverable, orbital module

15 days, remote sensing, photography, microgravity, promoted commercially

Jian Bing 4 FSW 3-1, 3-3, 3-5


3,800 kg

194-335 km, then up to 340 km, maneuverable, 63°

18 days, area survey

Jian Bing 4 FSW 3-2, 3-4 CZ-2C

3,800 kg

166 km, maneuvering up to 560 km, 63°

27 days, close look

Based on Clark, P. The Jian Bing Program. Presentation to the British Interplanetary Society, June 2005; and Data for the Jian Bing 4 Program, unpublished paper (2005).


As the Chinese space program expanded in size in the early 2000s, ever more specialized subsets of missions emerged. A new, small, Earth resources satellite, Tansuo, was introduced in 2004 (“Exploration”) (the name “Shiyang” was also given, but this is a generic Chinese name for a test satellite). The first was launched on 18th April 2004 into polar orbit. This was the first time that there was a northward polar launch from Xi Chang, for hitherto all launches had been southward and, for the first time, a Long March 2C was used from Xi Chang. Its orbit was 600-615 km, 97.6°. The Tansuo series was essentially a set of pre­operational test missions to define a more permanent Earth resources and mapping system. Tansuo was a 204-kg high-resolution stereo imaging and mapping satellite built at the University of Technology in Harbin and the Photomechanical Institute of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in collaboration with the European company Astrium. It was China’s first terrain-mapping satellite, with a 10-m stereo-resolution camera with a 120-km swath.

Tansuo also deployed a 25-kg micro-satellite called Naxing, short for “Nami Weixing” or “micro-satellite”, and derived from the earlier small satellite Tsinghua 1 flown by Russia. Naxing was built by the University in Tsinghua as hands-on learning for engineers to develop microtechnology. China television showed pictures of the six-sided cylinder being ejected from Tansuo against the background of the Earth. Tansuo 2 was also launched on Long March 2C from Xi Chang on 18th November 2004 into a slightly lower orbit. Weighing 300 kg, it was announced as a mission to test new technologies for the surveying of land, resources, and geography, with six new systems for control, power, and orientation. Hereon, the series returned to the Jiuquan launch base.

Tansuo 3 was launched on 5th November 2008 and also deployed another mini­satellite, the second Chuangxin (see below). It went into a much higher orbit, 800 km high. Tansuo 3 was built by Harbin Institute of Technology, a 204-kg Earth

observation satellite with a CCD camera, while Chuangxin 1-02 was a small 88-kg store-dump satellite built by SAST which collected information on weather, hydrology, and natural disasters from remote stations. Results from the double mission were published in September 2011 by the National Commission for Disaster Reduction. According to the commission, the optical, infrared, and hyper-spectral sensors had provided rapid imaging data that helped rescue teams in no fewer than 70 natural disasters, notably the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Tansuo 4 was again a double mission with Chuangxin 1-03 and also flew at 800 km. Tansuo 4 was built by the Harbin Institute again, but this time with the DFH SatelUte Co., and it may have been the larger CAST968 bus with a weight in the order of 400 kg.

We have few further details on these missions, or published images, but we do now have information on the current suite of Earth resources, environmental, and observational instruments from a description of the Beijing Institute of Space Mechanics and Electricity, originally institute 508 formed on 21st August 1958:

• Light and Small Infrared Area Camera, 8 kg, focal length 285 mm, used for monitoring fires, volcanoes, disasters, and the contours of deserts, with a resolution of 100 m;

• Wide Coverage Multi Spectral Imager for Ocean Monitoring, 18 kg, focal length 32 mm, swath 500 km, resolution 250 m from 798 km with four lens for acquiring data on ice, spills, and red tide;

• Wide Cover Multi Spectral Camera for Environment Monitoring, 34 kg, focal length 141 mm, resolution 30 m from 650 km, swath 700 km with two cameras;

• Large Area Staring Multi Spectral Camera, 130 kg, focal length 2 m, resolution 100 m from 24-hr orbit;

• Light Wide Coverage Scanner, 40 kg, focal length 1.3 m, swath 380 km, resolution 10 m from 1,300 km, for leakage detection, silting, riverbed pollution, and terrain observation;

• Push-broom Hyper-spectral Camera, 60 kg, focal length 41 mm, resolution 250 m from 800 km, with large field of view of agriculture, forestry, oceans, water, minerals, and environmental observations.

The first of a new type of satellite was launched on 24th August 2010: Tianhui, or mapping satellite, a CZ-2D used from Jiuquan in an orbit of 488-504 km, 94.5 min, 97.3°. The second carried a mapping camera with 5-m resolution and entered a similar orbit less than two years later. Both were crossing the equator at a similar time, 13:30 local time. It is possible that this new series benefitted from the earlier work undertaken by Tansuo and is an operational version, but the more powerful launcher suggests a heavier satellite. Outcomes do not yet appear to have been publicized. The series are summarized in Tables 6.6 and 6.7.

Table 6.6. Tansuo series (also known as Shiyan Weixing).


18 Apr 2004


Xi Chang

Naxing Tansuo 2

18 Nov 2004


Xi Chang

Tansuo 3

5 Nov 2008



Chuangxin 1-02 Tansuo 4 Chuangxin 1-03

20 Nov 2011



Table 6.7.

Tianhui series.

Tianhui 1-01

24 Aug 2010

Tianhui 1-02

6 May 2012

Both on CZ-2D from Jiuquan.


Even though project 714 was one of the more successful secrets of the period, rumors of Chinese plans for manned spaceflight surfaced repeatedly during the 1980s. Pictures of spacesuited astronauts appeared from time to time, in isolation chambers, simulators, centrifuges, and observatories, almost certainly at the Institute of Space Medicine (there was even a profile in the domestic press, on 10th—11th January 1980, for example). It was a story that just never seemed to go away. We now know that a group of 12 men was recruited in April 1979. They were never formally constituted as an astronaut squad, even though they studied the stars, tested isolation and pressure chambers, underwent all the difficult physical tests such as the orientation chair, tested negative body pressure suits, tasted space food, made drop tests, and may even have undertaken simulated space missions.

In 1992, the Hong Kong press reported that plans for a manned spaceflight were now under way. Considered at the time as just another rumor, this story was actually true, for the government made such a decision that year, as confirmed by its code name, project 921, derived either from the first decision of “92”, 1992, or else 21st September of that year (the 21st of the ninth month). The decision arose from two feasibility studies carried out under the project 863 research program (for background to the program, see Chapter 5). In February 1987, an expert group, 863-2, was set up

Name Design bureau Features

Source: Lan, Chen: Dragon in Space: A History of China’s Shenzhou Manned Space Program. Spaceflight, 47(4) (2005); Wade, M. Tian Jiao 1, available online at www. astronautix. com.

to establish long-range goals for the space sector. It determined that having a space station in Earth orbit was the hallmark of a great power in the twenty-first century, signifying national strength and international visibility. Plan 863-2 led to two sub­studies: 863-204 was for a new manned spacecraft and launcher, while 863-205 was for a manned space station [1]. The competition was run by the Ministry of Aerospace, which gave it an additional title: project 869. Six designs were presented in June 1988 and these are detailed in Table 8.2.

In the event, the China Academy of Launcher Technology (CALT) shuttle design, the Tian Jiao, was rated first (84%), followed closely (83%) by the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST) design. The proposals went to a conference in Harbin in July 1988 where the debate revolved between a conservative design (CAST) and a leapfrogging design (CALT), but one with higher design risk and a later date. An expert group took a year to reach a final decision, reversing the original recommendation in favor of CAST. At the time, we knew nothing of this great competition, although relics of it were in fact hiding in plain view. The aerospace – plane design was displayed at the 1990 International Astronautical Congress and may still be seen in the company office. Tian Jiao, meantime, was exhibited at the Hanover, Germany Expo 2000.

The proposal entered a three-year period of great uncertainty, being alternately on and off while technical, economic, and political issues were argued out in party and government, eventually forcing Deng Xiaoping out of retirement to prevail on his colleagues and especially reluctant premier Li Peng to make a decision. As an

Chinese spaceplane, probably based on the Tian Jiao concept. Courtesy: Mark Wade.

interim step, there were further studies to refine outstanding issues and an exchange program with Russia, whereby 20 young engineers went there, while the Russians sent expert lecturers in exchange. The technical studies focused on deciding between three possible versions of the CAST design:

• a three-module configuration, with the re-entry module on top and the orbital module in the middle;

• a two-module configuration, with no orbital module (like the Soviet Zond spacecraft);

• a version close to the Russian Soyuz, but with a larger orbital module capable of 180 days’ independent flight, originally proposed by Ren Zinmin in 1987. This was the choice.

Although the politburo eventually made its decision on 21st September 1992, it was not confirmed or publicly announced until the end of the decade. The original plan foresaw an unmanned launch by 1998, manned launch by 2002, a small space station by 2007, and a Mir-class station by 2010. Put in charge of project 921 was a disciple of the Soviet chief designer (1966-74) Vasili Mishin: Wang Yongzhi. A special Human Spaceflight Project Office was established to manage the program, reporting back directly to the state council. The name “Shenzhou”, or “divine heavenly vessel”, was applied to the project in 1994. Key tasks were assigned to different bureaus. Although led by CAST, the Shenzhou propulsion system went to SAST (Table 8.3).

Shenzhou: Qi Faren

Launcher, CZ-2F: Liu Zhusheng

New launch complex at Jiuquan: Xu Kejun

Recovery: Zhao Jun

Tracking system: Yu Zhijian

Astronaut training: Shu Shuangning

Payloads, applications: Gu Yidong

Evidence of an emerging Chinese manned space project became ever more compelling when, in 1996, two Chinese cosmonaut instructors were spotted in Star Town in Moscow: Wu Tse and Li Tsinlong, both 34-year-old Air Force pilots with over 1,000 hr flying. Although Star Town had now become very cosmopolitan, with many Europeans and Americans in training there, there was only one reason why Wu Tse and Li Tsinlong could have been there: they were cosmonaut instructors in training.

In fact, China had renewed its relationship with its long-estranged partners in Moscow in early 1993 and a formal cooperation agreement had been signed there on 25th March 1994. The following year, the Chinese went shopping, deciding to buy critical elements for their manned space program. They bought an entire spacecraft Ufe-support system, a Sokol spacesuit, a docking module, a Kurs rendezvous system,

Wu Tse and Li Tsinlong training in Moscow, 1996. Courtesy: Neil da Costa.

and a full Soyuz capsule, but it was a stripped-down shell, without any equipment or electronics (the Chinese had hoped to buy a complete Soyuz, but negotiators would not agree a price). Thermal protection systems were tested in Russian wind tunnels. The Chinese baulked at the €8m price of the stabilizer for the launch escape system and built their own in the end.

The two cosmonaut instructors spent a year in Star Town, learning how they could train a squad of their own, assisted by 20 specialists. As they did so, recruitment began for China’s second astronaut squad in 1996. As was the case before, Air Force pilots were favored, with a preference for over 1,000 flying hours, with an initial pool of between 1,000 and 1,500 people, reduced to 60, then 20, and finally whittled down to a final selection of 12 in 1998, with the two instructors later added, giving a second squad of 14 men (no women). The criteria were for height up to 175 cm, weight up to 80 kg, age 20-45 (but 25-36 preferred), a university degree in science, and a foreign language. Table 8.4 shows those who were selected.

Table 8.4. China’s second group of astronauts, 1996.

Zhao Chuandong Chen Quan Pan Zhanchun Zhang Xiaoguang Deng Qingming

Wu Tse (also written Wu Jie) (instructor)

Li Tsinlong (also written Li Qinglong) (instructor)

Although they did most of their training in China, they did travel to Russia for weightless training in the 11-76 plane. One outstanding question remained: what to call China’s spacemen? The original term for someone who flew in space, from the 1930s to the early 1960s, was “astronaut” (someone who traveled to the stars). On the first anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s flight, in 1962, the Soviet Union introduced a term devised by writer by Ari Stemfeld – “cosmonaut” (someone who traveled throughout the cosmos) – as a distinctive term for its fliers. The most popular term used in China, dating to the 1950s, was “yuhangyuan” – the official term and the one used in this book. Several others have also been used, including “hangtianyuan”, a professional or academic term, and “taikongren”, the term most familiar to overseas Chinese and people in Hong Kong and Taiwan. An anglicized version of “taikongren” is “taikonaut”, which has the merit of symmetry with “cosmonaut” and “astronaut”. This was favored by the Western media and even gained ground in China itself.

The manned space program decided on in 1992 meant a huge expansion of the infrastructure of the Chinese space program – indeed, its most systematic develop­ment since it began. The first need was for a training center, set up as a walled village in Haidian, a secluded area protected by military guards in the north-western suburbs of Beijing, whose function was comparable to Star Town and the American facilities in Houston [2]. It was built on the site of the original training center in 1970
and was not that different in layout from Star Town in Moscow. The main elements were a Shenzhou simulator, docking simulator, launch escape slide, and centrifuge 8 m long, able to run at 42 rpm and achieve 16 G (although 6 G is the normal run). A typical training period to qualification was four years. The training center had a spinning chair which whirled people up and down, left and right, around and around, in dizzying combinations, and an isolation, thermal, and vacuum chamber from which the air was sucked out and where astronauts learned to live in an air-free environment for several days, testing their psychological fitness to the limit and subjecting them to a range of temperature and humidity regimes. For gravity tests, the astronauts were put in a cylindrical tower 10 m tall and then shot up at great speed, to simulate the stresses of launching. To test the other end of the mission, they were dropped in a fast lift in a four-storey-high building. There was plenty of theory to learn, too. When they arrived, the yuhangyuan were handed a 600-page manual, Manned Spaceflight Engineering, covering everything from flight dynamics to cosmic rays and navigation systems.

The astronauts trained there five days a week. They returned home to their families each weekend. They had ordinary apartments to the standards of a cadre division commander. During the week, they had their own transport and police escort for visits outside the training center but, at the weekend, they were expected to get around like anyone else by bicycle or car. As was the case with many in the Russian cosmonaut squad, most of their wives also worked in the training center or in the space industry.

At the same time, a mission control center was built in Yenshan (Swallow Mountain) district, 40 km north of Beijing’s center, not far from one of the emperor’s summer palaces. Called the Beijing Aerospace Command and Control Centre (BACCC), it opened in March 1996. BACCC has five walls of consoles, 100 in all, connected by fiber optic cables, with a huge wall-to-wall screen at the front, with clocks, images of the worldwide tracking system, and television relays from the launch center, its gleaming and futuristic appearance confirmed by up to four presentations of three-dimensional displays at the front. Its appearance was not unlike that of mission control in Moscow, the TsUP, used to control the International Space Station (ISS). In between missions, the controllers spend time honing their skills in simulations. When they are not doing this, the screen puts up a graphic of a Long March taking off against a background of pagodas and distant mountains. Computers and high-speed links connect BACCC to China’s national ground control system in Xian and the Yuan Wang comships. Mission control handles not just manned, but lunar and interplanetary, missions.

MARS 500

In the meantime, China went to Mars – but on the ground. This was a 520-day-long ground experiment conducted by Russia, which had a long history of simulating long-duration missions going back to 1968, when three men made a year-long “spaceflight”. These tests were important for addressing life-support, ergonomic, medical, biological, and psychological issues long ahead of the real thing. In the early 2000s, Russia announced its intention of simulating a full-duration Mars mission in its Institute for Medical and Biological Problems (IMBP) in Moscow, using its simulation module called “the box” (“botchka” in Russian), a habitat of 550 m3. It would be as lifelike as possible, with a simulated landing on Mars for half the crew (while the other half orbited above) with a Mars walk and even a 40-min delay in transmission times to match the real delay at such a distance. Although these simulations were ridiculed in the British press (“Why don’t they simulate the Olympics too?”), they had a serious purpose in laying the groundwork for the definitive mission many decades later.

Originally, it was a Russian-European project. There were lengthy delays in getting it started, probably due to lack of money on the Russian side, to the point that a 105-day simulation was run instead from March to July 2009 with four Russians, a German, and a Frenchman. At one stage, it seemed that Mars 105 might be an abbreviated conclusion to the project but, suddenly, in April 2010, the Russian-European Mars 500 project was on again – but this time with a Chinese crewman, Dr Wang Yue, aged 27. He was a graduate of Nanjing Medical College in preventative medicine (in 2005) and went straight from there to the astronaut training center to work as a physiologist, being closely involved in the Shenzhou 7 space walk and the selection of China’s third group of astronauts. It was an all-male group (Russia seemed to have a problem including women in these tests) of four Russians, two Europeans (France and Italy), and a Chinaman. There is reason to believe that China was able to pay sufficient money for its participation to make the mission economical for the IMBP, which may have explained its sudden restart.

The Mars 500 botchka at IMBP in Moscow. Courtesy: ESA.

The mission began at 11:49 European time on 3rd June 2010, with the door of the bochka being ceremonially shut. Key simulated moments of a Mars mission followed, such as a mid-course correction on 24th December and entry to Mars orbit on 2nd February 2011 after 244 days. Forty days into the mission, communications were interrupted because of a solar storm. Later, there was a power cut – all part of a process of testing the men’s self-reliance. The high point of the experiment was when a sub-crew of three – Alexander Smolevsky, Diego Urbina, and Wang Yue – made a simulated landing on Mars on 12th February. For this, they transferred to a separate landing module measuring 6.3 x 6.17 m – their sole home for 16 days. Getting out on the surface, they made three space walks using real Russian Orlan spacesuits, each led by the Russian, with Wang Yue’s big moment taking place on 18th February. The cosmonauts traversed a simulated Martian terrain of 10 x 6m – actually part of the car park at the back – modeled on Gusev crater, where they collected samples, drove a rover, and planted the Russian, European, and Chinese flags. At night, Wang Yue slept in a 35-kg spacesuit at an angle with his head down to simulate the gravity of Mars after a long period of weightless, feeling the blood rush to his head. Then they left Mars on 23rd February, docked in Mars orbit four days later, and headed out Earthward on 1st March.

During the mission out to Mars and the long, monotonous journey home, Wang Yue provided daily blood and urine samples. He had his own 3-m2 cabin, where he hung a picture of Yang Liwei. The cosmonauts exercised regularly. Much of the day was spent on experiments, maintenance, and cleaning, as on a real spaceship. The

Chinese, European, and Russian cosmonauts walked on the “surface” of Mars in Moscow. Courtesy: DLR.

experiment he most disliked was an attention-level test in which he had to use a cursor to move 16 randomly swirling dots into a bubble. They could bring a small number of personal items on board, such as books, videos, and laptops. They spent a lot of time e-mailing friends, Wang Yue writing to his girlfriend but complaining that she did not write enough back. He spoke later of how his mood would fluctuate, at times becoming depressed and angry. For recreation, the crew watched videos, generally comedies and cartoons. Once they watched the film Apollo 13, but it left them depressed for days. The working languages of the mission were Russian and English, but Wang Yue initiated a course in basic Chinese for his colleagues. In an internet broadcast from the botchka on cosmonautics day, 12th April (the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s flight), Wang Yue spoke in excellent English about how much Gagarin had been an inspiration to him.

The doors of the botchka did not swing open again until November, when, in an event televised across Europe, the crewmembers emerged in their blue coveralls and bhnked in the natural Ught and the camera flashes of the hundreds of friends, family, and well-wishers who gathered to welcome them back to the real world.

Later, speaking of the mission, Wang Yue told viewers that the experiment had proved harder than he expected, but he had never thought of giving up and had received good support from family and friends. Readjustment after the mission was a challenge. He had difficulty sleeping and found everyday life very noisy after the quiet of the botchka. Director of the astronaut training center in Beijing, Chen

Shanguang, described his contribution to a future Mars mission as heroic, while IMBP deputy director and cosmonaut Boris Morukov commended his teamwork and determination. Wang Yue told of how he had spent his time off in reading, board games, and calligraphy, and had followed closely the rescue of the Chilean miners who had been trapped underground. Asked what he missed most, Wang Yue was very clear: home Chinese cooking. The food – which was similar to that on the International Space Station – was not enjoyable, he said, but it kept him from starving and gave him some energy. He had spent two birthdays on the Mars flight and was 29 when he returned. He volunteered that he was prepared to do the experiment again – “but not right yet”. A mission highlight was taking a shower every 10 days (so limited so as to conserve water). He went on a well-deserved holiday in Kunming, Yunan, and managed to put back on some of the 5-kg weight he had lost during the mission.

The mission was followed by a team of ESA psychologists led by Bernadette van Barsen of the Netherlands. Initial results showed that the crew had stood up well to the early part of the mission, but with morale dipping several months in but then recovering when the Mars landing approached. In a post-conference presentation of the results, the head of IMBP Anatoli Grigoriev spoke of the importance of the experiment in identifying the psycho-physiological stress points of a mission to Mars, such as decreased motor activity (hypokinesia), monotony, and frustration, as well as risks of cardiac arrhythmia and the demineralization of bones and tissue. Although this part of the mission was not simulated, experts were already alert to the problem of cancers from prolonged exposure to solar radiation – one which suggested that older astronauts should fly, for they would spread more slowly. Granted that astronauts were now flying in their fifties (John Glenn had famously flown at 77), Wang Yue could, even in 30 years’ time, be of a suitable age for such a mission. Would Wang Yue be the first Chinese man on Mars? Or would he follow down the ladder Liu Yang, the first Chinese woman?


The lunar program was, like others, a beneficiary of project 863 (see Chapter 4), which enabled pre-studies to be undertaken of a lunar mission. Indeed, Deng Xiaoping’s wisdom in approving a horizontal science program as far back as 1986 became more apparent, for it made it possible for scientific objectives to reassert themselves within the space program and permitted ground work to be done thoroughly before a government decision (in 2003). It is possible that the success of the early Shenzhou missions gave China the final confidence necessary to proceed with a lunar mission, leading to the first launching to the Moon, Chang e, in 2007, followed by a second mission in 2010, Chang e 2. China was able to keep its costs down by using spacecraft originally developed for other missions, such as the DFH-3, and by adapting instrumentation from Earth resources satelhtes. The trajectories followed for both lunar missions were difficult and ambitious, for both Chang e’s elliptical trajectory to the Moon and Chang e 2’s subsequent move to L2 required considerable precision, navigation, computer power, and tracking. Their missions were carried out with apparently effortless ease – evidence of rapidly rising standards within the program and the thoroughness of preparatory work. The product of Chang e was a substantial body of indigenous scientific knowledge, giving China new, precise topographic and chemical lunar maps, with the identification of fresh lunar features and a new understanding of the regolith. They gave China a place in the international scientific community analyzing the Moon – a promising background for the rover and sample return missions to follow. Although the opportunistic but clever Yinghuo mission came to nothing, plans were already in preparation for missions to Mars from 2015. Preparatory work was even undertaken for a later manned mission to Mars, the Mars 500, over 2010-11. The years 2007-12 clearly marked a fresh dimension to China’s space program: its arrival in the field of missions to deep space.


Tiangong was China’s first space laboratory. The Chinese explained that there would be a second occupation of Tiangong, after which the laboratory would be de-orbited in the Southern Ocean, away from the shipping lanes. Its thrusters would fire for long enough to take it out of orbit: most of it would bum up but any fragments that made it through re-entry would impact harmlessly. Tiangong would be followed over the next five years by Tiangong 2 with 20-day visits and then Tiangong 3 with 40- day visits and a regenerative life-support system [4]. Tiangong 3 would be resupplied by an unmanned cargo craft based on Shenzhou, in the same way as Russia adapted Soyuz as the Progress cargo vehicle. This third station would orbit up to 450 km and would spend up to 10 years in orbit.

At 12 days’ duration, Shenzhou 9 doubled the length of the previous longest Chinese spaceflight. Although other countries, especially Russia, had made long – duration missions for many years (one cosmonaut spent 438 days in orbit), China lacked its own database on the effects of weightlessness. In anticipation, ground tests had been carried out, the focus being on bed-rest and head-down tilt experiments to simulate some of the effects of weightlessness. A 60-day bed-rest and head-down tilt experiment was carried out in 2007 in a three-sided project between the astronaut training center, the French space agency CNES, and the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Twenty-one men participated, the effects being lower cardiac activity accompanied by a loss of bone density and muscle mass. Countermeasures were developed during a 30-day bed-rest and head-down tilt experiment with 14 men in 2009 during the course of which they exercised with a bicycle, wore penguin suits,

ONTO A PERMANENT SPACE STATIONand used negative pressure equipment, with positive results. Separately, using rats, experiments were conducted using traditional Chinese medicines, especially taikong xiele to slow bone and muscle loss [5].

As the design and building of Tiangong proceeded, China began work on a permanent station, something on the lines of the Soviet Mir space station. In the early 2000s, China issued illustrations of a station comprising a core block and three 8.5-tonne Tiangong-class modules, totaling 38 tonnes, with a permanent crew of three. This model was quite similar to the original design of the Mir space station, but much smaller than Mir in its final form (120 tonnes), still less the ISS (450 tonnes). The core block would be launched from a new launch site on Hainan Island in 2020, with Tiangong modules, manned Shenzhou spacecraft, and unmanned freighters flying up from Jiuquan. The station would orbit between 400 and 450 km, 42°, for 10 years. From time to time, the station would dip to 380 km, to facilitate the arrival of Shenzhou spacecraft. It would then be boosted back to altitude; 2023, the solar maximum, would be a trying year, for increased atmospheric density would require numerous orbit-raising maneuvers.

The design of the space station was modified in 2011 to become something more ambitious. New designs issued by the office of China Manned Spaceflight Engineering showed something much more on the scale of the ISS. First up would be the base block with a six-port node and robotic arm, followed by a small module

Table 1.2. Scientific platforms planned for large Chinese space station, 2020.

• Space Exposure Experimental Platform, with robot arm, for experiments in radiation biology, materials science, new components and materials, astronomy, space physics, and environment;

• Variable Gravity Experimental Platform, providing opportunities for experiments in biology, complex fluids, material science, and medicines from 0 to 2 G;

• High Temperature and Combustion Science Experimental Platform;

• High Microgravity Level Experimental Platform, for experiments in laser cooling atomic clocks, the verification of gravity, the equivalence principle, crystals, fluid science, laser and optical diagnostics, and colloidal crystals;

• Life and Ecology Experimental Platform, a greenhouse for cell and tissue cultivation, to cultivate plants, raise animals, and to test the disposal of waste gases and water;

• Protein Engineering Experimental Platform, for experiments with protein macromole­cules, liquid and gas diffusion, protein structures, and functions.

with solar panels, not unlike the Kvant module on Mir. The first occupation by a Shenzhou crew would take place next, with resupplies by unmanned cargo craft. Next would come a truss structure on which four huge solar panels would be attached. Four large laboratory modules would follow. There would be an airlock module from which numerous space walks would be based. A notable feature of the plan was that large solar panels would be added at the earhest possible stage, so that there would be sufficient power for the specialized modules.

As for the scientific experiments to be carried out in 2008, the Chinese Academy of Sciences had begun work on China’s scientific goals, subsequently published as Roadmap 2050 [6]. This outlined six science “platforms” to be installed on the station, comprising the instrumentation for the specialized modules. These are listed in Table 1.2.

An early priority was what was called the “cosmic lighthouse”, a 3-tonne external platform to survey the sky for dark matter and dark energy. Seven candidate projects were under consideration:

• large-scale imaging and spectroscopic survey facility, to study dark energy, dark matter, and the large-scale structure of the universe;

• high-energy cosmic radiation facility, to study the properties of dark matter, the composition of cosmic rays, high-energy electrons, and gamma rays;

• soft x-ray and ultra-violet all-sky monitor to study x-ray binaries, super­novae, gamma ray bursts, active galactic nuclei, and the tidal disruption of stars by supermassive black holes;

• x-ray polarimeter, to study black holes, neutron stars, accretion disks, and supernova remnants;

• galactic warm-hot gas spectroscopic mapper, to study the Milky Way, interstellar medium, and missing baryons in the universe;

• high-sensitivity solar high-energy detector, to study solar flares, high-energy particle acceleration mechanisms, and space weather; and

• infrared spectroscopic survey telescope, to study stars, galaxies, and active galactic nuclei.

Additional experiments were planned in optical and electron microscopy, diffractive and florescent analysis, mass spectrometry, confocal laser scanning microscopy, and interferometry. As for the yuhangyuan themselves, a range of experiments were planned in:

• psychology of crew and individual performance in an isolated, confined, and hostile environment;

• first aid, space sickness, immunity, and telemedicine;

• physical resistance to weightlessness, addressing bone loss, atrophy, and cardiovascular deconditioning;

• resistance to radiation hazards, cancers, gene mutations, and pharmacolo­gical protectors;

• Controlled Ecological Life Support Systems: food production, the balance of oxygen and nitrogen, the recycling and regeneration of water;

• fire safety – prevention, detection, control, and suppression.

Even as Tiangong was circling the Earth, China began work on the construction of the elements of this permanent station. First of all, a 12-m-tall, 7-m-diameter component-testing facility was built. One of the first items to be tested was a remote arm, for girders and remote arms had proved an important feature of the Mir space station. Harbin Polytechnical University, with Beijing Robot Research Centre, obtained funding under a horizontal research program called 863 for the development of a remote arm for the space station. It was much smaller than comparable Russian or Canadian projects, being of human size, with 96 sensors, 12 motors, four fingers each with four joints, and the ability to lift 10 kg. It could use screwdriver and spanner-type instruments and, according to its inventors, could even play the piano!

These designs and plans set the scene for an ambitious program of manned space exploration. But key to their ultimate success was the first-ever laboratory: Tiangong in 2012. The three missions are summarized in Table 1.3 and the chronology of the space station is shown in Table 1.4.

Table 1.3. Tiangong missions.



Tiangong 1

29 September 2011

Shenzhou 8

31 October 2011

Shenzhou 9

16 June 2012

References 27

Table 1.4. Chinese space station: chronology.

Year Event

1992 Russian-American agreement on ISS

1998 Start of construction of ISS

1999 Government approval of space station project; first designs

2000 Cooperation agreement between China and Russia extended to space stations

2011 Launch of Tiangong; rendezvous and docking by Shenzhou 8

2012 First occupation of Chinese space station by crew of Shenzhou 9 [2] [3]


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.

Communications satellites

Communications satellites are an important line of development of the Chinese space program. In 1984, China launched its first communications satellite – the beginning of a series that has brought television and modern communications to the whole Chinese landmass. This began the Dong Fang Hong series of communications satellites, now at Dong Fang Hong 4, with numerous derivatives (e. g. Feng Huo, Tian Lian). China attempted to open its space program to launching Western satellites, but this became the occasion of a prolonged and acrimonious stand-off with the United States which continues to the present day. Despite this, China has launched several comsats for foreign customers, like Nigeria and Venezuela, with more to follow.


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.