Category China in Space


Encouraged by his success with the missile, Tsien Hsue Shen worked hard to revive the canceled satellite project. Following Yuri Gagarin’s flight around the Earth in April 1961, Tsien organized a series of symposia which discussed spaceflight and reported on the progress of other nations. The following year, he convened a 50- strong satellite design team under Zhu Yilin in the Shanghai Institute of Machine and Electrical Design (SIMED) and, in 1963, the Academy of Sciences formed a Commission on Interplanetary Flight. The following year, the Academy of Sciences in Beijing established a committee to investigate the desirability of a man-made satellite, which sat for a year. Proposals from Tsien and his colleague Zhao Jiuzhang to revive the satellite project circulated over 1964-65 through party, military, and government. The Academy of Sciences presented, in July 1965, a Proposal on the Plan and Program of Development Work of Our Artificial Satellite. Sensing a favorable wind, they proposed not just a satellite, but a space program. The satellite was approved by Prime Minister Zhou Enlai and the central committee on 10th August 1965, stipulating that the satellite be visible from the ground and that its signals could be heard all over the world (similar considerations governed the approval of Sputnik) and it was given the new code of project 651.

In what became a standard Chinese practice, a lengthy design conference was held, lasting 42 days – from 20th October to 2nd December 1965 – and called the “651 conference”. This settled the details of the satellite, called the Dong Fang Hong 1 (“the east is red”), its weight (170 kg), orbit (70°, so that it could be widely seen), size (spherical polyhedron 1 m in diameter), brightness (fifth magnitude star), batteries (20-day supply), and scientific instruments. It was intended to be bigger, better, and more sophisticated than either Sputnik or America’s Explorer that opened the space age.

Building the launcher was a challenge at least as great as that of the satellite itself. The size and power of the Dong Feng rocket were far short of those required to reach orbit. Over the 1960s, the Chinese gradually developed the descendants of the

DF-1 to the point that the DF-4 could be developed into a satellite launcher. Called the Long March 1, it was essentially a three-stage version of the Dong Feng 4 medium-range missile developed over 1965-70 – a weapon planned to hit targets as far away as the mid-Pacific. On top of the DF-4, a small third-stage solid-rocket motor stage was fitted to get the satellite into orbit. The Long March 1 was 29.45 m long, 2.25 m in diameter, 79 tonnes in weight, and able to launch a satellite of 300 kg into an orbit of 440 km at 70°. The first two stages, 17 and 5 m tall, respectively, used storable fuels, UDMH (unsymetrical dimethyl methyl hydrazine), mixed with nitric acid – the approach favored by Russia’s greatest engine designer, Valentin Glushko. These fuels have the advantage of being powerful, storable on the pad for lengthy periods, and igniting on contact with one another, but the disadvantage of being toxic, requiring careful handling, and being capable of inflicting horrible burns in the case of accidents. The third stage, the GF-02, was a small engine using a solid – fuel motor and was 4 m tall and 0.77 m in diameter.

Once again, the project was overtaken by political events, for, in March 1966, Mao Zedong launched the cultural revolution. This had a profound effect, as the country was overrun by seething political factions and militants (the red guards).

FIRST SATELLITE: DONG FANG HONGScientists involved in the project were dismissed, killed, sent for re-education in the countryside, forced to sign confessions (in­cluding Tsien), or driven to suicide (Zhao Jiuzhang). The red guards campaigned against project 651, publishing the slo­gan “when the satellite goes up, the red flag goes down”. Zhou Enlai eventually put the satelhte project under martial law and its scientists under military protec­tion in an attempt to save it from the worst of the excesses of the

revolution. When Zhou Enlai died several years later, person­nel in the space industry turned out in vast numbers to mourn him, placing wreaths and poems in his honor in Tiananmen Square, despite large-scale inti­midation by the red guards.

The Long March 1, used to launch China’s first satellite.


Zhou Enlai at early Jiuquan. Zhou was the leading patron of the space program.


Tsien Hsue Shen at early Jiuquan.


Dong Fang Hong, China’s first satellite.


Zhou Enlai attending a space launch: “We did this through our own unaided efforts.”

The scientists were not able to get the satellite and launcher ready until 24th April 1970. Tsien Hsue Shen and Zhou Enlai were in constant telephone contact between Jiuquan and Beijing as the countdown began that evening. The clouds parted to reveal stars winking in the darkness and China’s first Earth satellite ascended from Jiuquan on a 500-m orange tail of flame that bent over the desert of Gansu and headed towards the South China Sea. The first stage burned for 140 sec, dropping away so that the second could fire for 120 sec and, at the top of its trajectory, the small third-stage motor fired to kick it into orbit. As a tribute to the revolution, the scientific instruments had been removed, replaced by a tape recorder powered by a chemical battery playing the anthem “The East Is Red”. Tsien Hue Shen and his colleagues gathered on the still-hot launch pad, some cheering, some dancing, some even crying. Tsien made an impromptu speech. His life’s dream had at last come true in the deserts of north-west China.

Zhou Enlai personally insisted that a small note be added to the press communique: “We did it through our own unaided efforts.” This was true, for China was, at the time, isolated from much of the rest of the world in science, technology, and even in diplomacy. At 170 kg, it was indeed the biggest first satellite of any of the space powers. Parades were held all over the cities, towns, and villages of China and people vied with each other to be first to see the magnitude + 5 satellite or its + 3.3 rocket in the spring night skies. In Beijing, fireworks were set off, bands played, and colored banners were unfurled. On the Mayday parade in Tiananmen Square a week later, Tsien Hsue Shen stood on the podium along with other Chinese leaders as the band played the same tune as the first satellite was now broadcasting all over the world (signals lasted several weeks). The Dong Fang Hong rocket burned up on 29th December 2000, but the satellite is expected to stay aloft for 100 years, until 2070.


The Long March 4 was developed to fly meteorological satellites (the Feng Yun 1 series) into polar orbit from the new launch site of Taiyuan. It was built in the same plant that designed and constructed the Feng Bao in Shanghai, providing it with much-needed replacement work. As was the case with the Long March 3, it was a derivative of the first two stages of the Long March 2, but with a totally new third stage and engines (YF-40). For the CZ-4, Chinese rocket designers stretched the





40 m

38.3 m

58.34 m


3.35 m

3.35 m

3.35 m


213 tonnes

237 tonnes

479.8 tonnes


2,960 kN

2,962 kN

5,923 kN


Engines: 4 x YF-20B Length: 15.33 m Mass: 41 tonnes

First stage

Engine: 4 x YF-20A Length: 23.72 m Mass: 151.55 tonnes Thrust: 284 tonnes Bum: 130 sec

Engine: 4 x YF-20B Length: 24.92 m Mass: 187.7 tonnes Thrust: 302 tonnes Burn: 154 sec

Engine: 4 x YF-20B Length: 23.7 m Mass: 196 tonnes Thrust: 326 tonnes Bum: 166 sec

Second stage

Engine: YF-24 Length: 8.387 m Mass: 38.5 tonnes Thmst: 73.2 tonnes

Engine: YF-24B Length: 7.92 m Mass: 38.5 tonnes Thrust: 80 tonnes

Engine: YF-22 Length: 15.52 m Mass: 91.5 tonnes Bum: 295 sec


2,800 kg to 300 km orbit

3,400 kg to 200 km

7,600 kg to 330 km

Note: This and the two subsequent tables use a number of official sources for these details. There are minor variations in the technical information provided, so this is the most representative selection.

CZ-2C first stage by 4 m and the second stage by 3 m. Introduced in 1988, it flew only twice and was replaced 10 years later by an improved version, the Long March 4B, which put the third polar weather satellite into orbit (Feng Yun 1-3) with the small scientific satellite Shi Jian 5. Since then, it has been used for applications missions such as China Brazil Earth Resources Satellite (CBERS) and Zi Yuan. The Long March 4B used a more powerful, restartable third stage, with a 3% greater thrust level and longer burn time. Its capacity is 4.2 tonnes to low Earth orbit or 2.8 tonnes to polar orbit. The 4B is slightly taller on the pad – 44.1 m compared to 41.9 m.

The CZ-4C was introduced on Yaogan 3 on 12th November 2007, the new rocket having a multiple restart upper stage, a structural rung between the first two stages, and a new shroud (many Western records give Yaogan 1 as the first flight of the CZ – 4C, but the official source of the day gave it the 4B). The restartable upper stage would give China the ability to reach higher orbits more precisely while the structure would enable it to carry heavier payloads. Details are given in Table 3.6.





52.52 m

54.838 m

54.838 m


3.35 m

3.35 m

3.35 m


241 tonnes

427.3 tonnes

345 tonnes


2,962 kN

5,923 kN

4,440 kN


Engine: 4 x YF-20B Length: 15.326 m Mass: 41.2 tonnes Thmst: 305 tonnes Bum: 125 sec

Engine: 2 x YF-20B Length: 15.326 m Mass: 41 tonnes Thrust: 302 tonnes Burn: 127 sec

First stage

Engine: 4 x YF-21B Length: 26.972 m Mass: 182.83 tonnes Thrust: 296.16 tonnes Bum: 146 sec

Engine: 4 x YF-21B Length: 23.272 m Mass: 180.3 tonnes Thmst: 302 tonnes Bum: 146 sec

Engine: 4 x YF-21B Length: 26.972 m Mass: 179 tonnes Thrust: 326 tonnes Burn: 155 sec

Second stage

Engine: 4 x YF-24B Length: 7.826 m Mass: 34.963 tonnes Thrust: 73.2 tonnes Bum: 110 sec

Engine: YF-24B Length: 9.943 m Mass: 55.6 tonnes Thmst: 73.2 tonnes Bum: 185 sec

Engine: YF-22 Length: 9.47 m Mass: 55 tonnes Thmst: 76 tonnes Burn: 190 sec

Third stage

Engine: 2 x YF-75 Length: 8.835 m Mass: 21.257 tonnes Thrust: 16 tonnes Bum: 480 sec

Engine: 2 x YF-75 Length: 12.375 m Mass: 21.7 tonnes Thmst: 16 tonnes Bum: 470 sec

Engine: 2 x YF-75 Length: 12.38 m Mass: 21.257 tonnes Thrust: 15.6 tonnes Burn: 480 sec


2.6 tonnes to GTO

5.5 tonnes to GTO

3.9 tonnes to GTO


Those two satellites were the Dong Fang Hong 2 series. The next 24-hr domestic satellite saw the introduction of the Dong Fang Hong 2A series, 3.68 m tall, 441 kg in weight on station, with a design life of four years, and power supplied by 20,000 solar cells. It had four transponders able to transmit five television channels and 3,000 telephone calls at a time. The first, Shiyan Tongbu Tongxin Weixing 2, launched in March 1988, took up position at 87.5°E and doubled its design life, not drifting off station until nine years later in September 1987. Equally successful were Shiyong Tongbu Tongxin 3 that December (110.5°E) and Shiyong Tongbu Tongxin Weixing 4 two years later (98.5°E). These early satellites were used to achieve complete television coverage for China with 30 channels and to permit telephone and fax services to be sent by satellite for the main governmental agencies and development bodies. Thirty thousand receiving dishes were built, education programming going out for more than 30 hr a day, reaching over 30m people. Shiyong Tongbu Tongxin Weixing 3 operated for over 10 years, more than twice its design lifetime, and was the last of the 2A series to cease functioning; 4 left for its graveyard orbit in 1998 after successfully transmitting for almost 10 years.

The run of successes came to an end on 28th December 1991 when a Long March 3 launched what should have been Shiyong Tongbu Tongxin Weixing 5. Rather like the first attempt to send a satellite into geosynchronous orbit in 1984, the third stage failed, this time after burning for only 58 sec. Apparently, the helium pressurizing gas in the third stage sprang a leak and pressure in the combustion chamber fell to zero 135 sec into the burn. To make good the loss in transmissions, the following year, the Chinese space authorities bought an American comsat, Spacenet 1, already in orbit and nearing the end of its useful life, and maneuvered it from its location at 240°E to what may have been the intended destination of Shiyong Tongbu Tongxin Weixing 5 at 115°E. They then renamed it Zhongxing 5

DFH-2 in test: a drum-shaped design was typical of early communications satellites.

(Zhongxing means “the star of China”), suggesting that Shiyong Tongbu Tongxin Weixing 1-4 were now renamed Zhongxing 1-4. Zhongxing 5 operated at 115.5° until December 1999, when it was retired.

The objective of the third generation of Dong Fang Hong communications satellites was to increase 12-fold the capacity of the previous series and guarantee a working life of eight years. It was broadly equivalent to the American Hughes 276. An important driver of the series was the need to update and improve technical standards. Writing in Jingi Ribao on 30th April 1998, Hang Wen described the quality of China’s domestic satelhtes as “pitiful”, the quality of electronics being especially weak and lagging behind international standards, he warned. There was no point in having great rockets if basic industry is poor. In a homely Chinese metaphor, he compared it to trying to cook a meal without rice. The Dong Fang Hong 3 series had a 20% Western design contribution from Messerschmitt Bolkow Blohm (MBB) of Germany for the solar array. Other parts were contributed by Matra Marconi (central processor), Daimler Chrysler (antenna), and Officine GaUleo (attitude control sensor). At this stage, the drum shape of Dong Fang Hong 2 and 2A gave way to a box-shaped spacecraft with two solar wings. Dong Fang Hong 3 had double the weight of its predecessors – 2,200 kg at launch and 1,145 kg on station. It was 5.71 m tall and had a 2-m-diameter communications dish with six spot beams. The satellite had 24 transponders to transmit six color TV channels and take 8,000 telephone calls at a time, able to cover 90% of China. Its solar wings had a span of 18.1 m, it was able to generate 4,000 W, and it had a

design lifetime of eight years. It required a more powerful rocket, the Long March ЗА.

All did not go well on the first mission. On 29th November 1994, the Dong Fang Hong 3-1 (also called Zhongxing 6 or 6A) failed in its transfer orbit of 181— 36,026 km. Although the Chinese used its propellant over time to raise the perigee to 35,181 km by 29th December, by the time it reached there, all supplies of fuel had been used up and the satellite had to be abandoned. As they had done before, the Chinese bought an American Hughes 276 replacement, but one on the ground this time. They launched it on one of their own Long March 3 rockets in August 1996 but, once again, the transfer maneuver to geosynchronous orbit went wrong and it became stranded between 200 and 17,230 km. Apparently, the pressurizing gas failed and caused the thrust to stall a mere 48 sec before the satellite would have reached orbit. The orbit was later raised to 21,667-46,507 km, so they got some use out of it, but Zhongxing 7 was then abandoned. It was the third such failure in a row in five years. Eventually, a Dong Fang Hong 3 satellite reached orbit successfully – put up on a Long March ЗА on 11th May 1997 (Dong Fang Hong 3-2 or Zhongxing 8) over 125°E and, this time, everything went perfectly. On 1st April 2004, it moved off station and was decommissioned.

Table 5.1 summarizes the DFH-2 and Table 5.2 the DFH-3 series.

Table 5.1. DFH-2, 2A series of communications satellites.

DFH-3 series as pictured in orbit. The design has evolved to a box shape with panels.

Table 5.2. DFH-3 series of communications satellites.

DFH 3-1

Zhongxing 6 or 6A

29 Nov 1994

Third-stage failure

DFH 3-2

Zhongxing 8 or 6 or 6B

11 May 1997


DFH 3-3

Sinosat 3/Xinnuo 3

31 May 2007

120°E, Chinasat 5A/later Eutel sat ЗА/Zhongxing 5C


The application of communications satellites to data relay is included here. The Americans introduced what they called the Tracking and Data Relay SatelUte System (TDRSS) in the 1980s to support Shuttle operations. Hitherto, the Shuttle had communicated with the ground as its crew flew over tracking stations around the globe – an inefficient system which required continuous retuning to each new ground station it overflew. With TDRSS, the Shuttle sent its signals outwards and upwards – to the nearest of three TDRSS communications satellites in 24-hr orbit, which then relayed signals back to mission control. Russia had a similar system, Luch, for communicating with Mir. It was an expensive system, but one which produced comprehensive, seamless, round-the-clock communications between mission control and its astronauts.

Here, China adapted the DFH-3 communications satellite to fulfill a similar purpose for its manned spaceflight program. Tian Lian is apparently heavier, for it required the new CZ-3C launcher, suggesting that the CZ-3A was not powerful enough. The first data relay satellite, Tian Lian (“sky link”), was launched into geosynchronous orbit on 25th April 2008 in advance of the upcoming Shenzhou 7 mission. Tian Lian provided 50% coverage of Shenzhou’s orbits, but crucially during the space walk. Tian Lian 2 followed three years later, just in time for the Tiangong space station, with a third soon thereafter. It was not clear whether this was a spare or part of a three-satellite system. The series is noted in Table 6.11.

Table 6.11. Tian Lian series.

Both on CZ-3C from Xi Chang.


The Chinese originally planned to follow Shenzhou 2 with their third launch in August 2001. In the event, the third mission did not fly for another seven months. The purpose of this mission was to fly a fully rated Shenzhou with a live escape system. The long delays in getting Shenzhou 3 airborne were an instructive example of the deliberative, cautious approach of the Chinese to their manned space program. More than ever, they were determined not to rush their fences and only fly once they were totally happy with their equipment. Shenzhou 3 was rolled out to the launch pad in Jiuquan in late July 2001 – something known from commercial imaging satellites. The Yuan Wang tracking ships soon set out to sea.

In the event, the launch crews were not happy with their checkout of the Long March 2F, especially the electrical connectors, and were unable to make the necessary modifications in situ. Product quality was at fault, indicated one report. The electrical problem must have been deep inside the rocket, because it was sent all the way back on the railway to Beijing on 12th October for modifications. There, 10 further defects were found and corrected. It was back in Jiuquan again by early November. The tracking fleet slipped out to sea again on 16th December for a 10- day rehearsal of its tracking routines in the East China Sea, handing control over from one ship to another. They had a tough time, for they were hit with 5-m-high waves, 60-km/hr winds, and the crews were badly seasick. A fresh attempt to count down the vehicle was made for an 8th January launch date. This time, the avionics were at fault. Internal systems had to be taken out and fully replaced, causing a further three-month delay. As they waited in the winter cold, Jiuquan was hit by some of the worst sandstorms for many years.

Shenzhou 3 was eventually launched at night on 25th March. Its pillar of flame lit up the gantry alongside and sent orange smoke spewing up the side of the site. The escape system was operated in live conditions for the first time. In 10 min, Shenzhou 3 had reached orbit, one slightly different, at 41.4° rather than 41.6°, with an altitude of 195-336 km, 89.84 min. Confirmation that orbit had been achieved was greeted with applause in mission control. Sometime between 7 hr and 9 hr 15 min after launch, Shenzhou maneuvered to its standard orbit of 335 km, 91.216 min – one which brought it exactly over Jiuquan every 31 circuits. This time, the launch was watched by the yuhangyuan squad. Their purpose was to test the procedures for leaving the cabin in an on-the-pad emergency. In the event of having to leave the cabin quickly, they would exit Shenzhou in 5 sec each, run to a tunnel, descend eight floors on a slide, and shelter in a bunker. Some of their personal souvenirs were flown on board.

Shenzhou 3 carried dummies (two or three, depending on one’s sources) with simulated blood pressure, pulses, and breathing. Voice recordings were transmitted to and from the cabin. The half-way point of the mission was signaled several days

later, indicating that the mission was not intended to be longer than the week of Shenzhou 2. More television pictures were relayed of the dummies in the cabin while another shot showed the Earth through the porthole.

On 29th March at 18:15 Beijing time (10:15 GMT) on the 61st orbit, the apogee was raised slightly while Shenzhou 3 was directly over the Yuan Wang 3 comship off Africa in an 8-sec burn to trim it for re-entry. The orbit was raised from 331-336 km, 91.2 min, to 335-342 km. A final trim took place on the 31st, adjusting the orbit from 330-337 km to 330-340 km. On the following day, 1st April, at 15:52, the orbital module was separated and retro-fire took place at 16:02 (Beijing time). Shenzhou crossed the equator for the last time at 16:14 at 34°E. In mission control in Beijing, the path of the incoming spaceship was marked up on the 48-m2 liquid crystal display screen. Twenty-nine-year-old mission controller Shen Jiansong called out each crucial stage as it happened, from retro-fire through to parachute deployment and then touchdown in Chinese Mongolia. Stormy applause broke out. The landing came at 16:51 after a 162-hr mission in which it had flown 108 times around the Earth, covering a distance of 5.4m km. It was an hour and a half before sunset.

In contrast to the previous mission, pictures of the Shenzhou 3 cabin were posted on the internet within minutes. A rescuer was pictured rushing forward towards the cabin, which had alighted on the grassy steppe brush, with a Mil-8 helicopter in the background. Late-afternoon sunlight flooded into the cabin as they opened the

hatches to take out the dummies. The Shenzhou 3 cabin was the first one to come down in daylight.

As was the case with the previous mission, the orbital module then began its own solo career, scheduled to last six months, starting a day later. It was flying over the Jiuquan launch site every 32 circuits and data were dumped to the ground during passes over China on S-band on 2,200-2,290 MHz at 10 МВ/sec. On 1st April, the day of the landing, its engines fired to raise its orbit to 354-257 km, 91.64 min. This path had decayed back to the original altitude by 24th April, so, early the following morning, a burn put the craft back up, this time to 382-388 km. This was a slightly lower altitude than its predecessor module. On 13th June, the orbit had decayed, so a maneuver by the engines raised the module’s orbit from 356-369 km, 91.79 min, to 375-385 km, 92.15 min. The last orbit-raising maneuver took place on 16th July. The orbital module eventually completed its mission on 10th October and decayed on 12th November off Western AustraUa. By then, it had circled the Earth 2,821 times on a 232-day independent mission.

It was announced that 44 experiments were on board, 13 in the descent cabin and 31 on the orbital module. The principal ones were a 34-band medium-resolution imaging spectrograph, cirrus cloud sensor, Earth radiation budget sensor, solar ultraviolet monitor, solar constant monitor, atmospheric composition detector, atmospheric density detector, multi-chamber crystallization furnace and protein crystal equipment (second flight), cell bioreactor, solid-matter tracking detector, and microgravity gauge (third flight). Dealing first with the experiments recovered on the descent module, it contained an experimental microchip, an incubator to hatch eggs, seeds, seedlings, a vaccine experiment, and eggs from Blacklion chickens to test embryo growth. The seeds were taken from plums, vines, and alfalfa. The seedlings project was masterminded by Academy of Sciences genetics professor Liu Min. It was the first time that China had orbited seedlings (as distinct from seeds). This time, grape, raspberry, and orchid had been chosen. On their return, they grew at five to seven times the normal rate, he reported. The grape seedlings would later be attached to adult grapevines. Thirty-eight varieties of seeds were supplied by the Tian Xiang Ecoagriculture Company in Sichuan, including rice, wheat, vegetables, and traditional medicinal herbs. Nine Blacklion chicken eggs flew aboard Shenzhou in an experiment developed by chicken researcher Yang Anning. Thirty days after their return to the Earth, the first three hatched out and the results were analyzed for programs to breed more successful chicken varieties. The descent cabin carried protein crystallization and space cell culture experiments.

Shenzhou 3 marked a significant advance in materials processing with a fluid experimental device to test protein crystal growth and the behavior of cells, cell fusion, and electrophoresis. There was an attempt to grow a gallium crystal for a diluted magnetic superconductor, but there was insufficient energy to melt the crystal sample. Sixteen proteins were crystallized in 60 wells, with four showing significant improvements in diffraction quality and higher signal-to-noise ratios: phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfotransferase, cy­tochrome b5, and anti-bacterial pepcide LC1 (a form of snake venom) [5].

Turning to the orbital module, Shenzhou 3 carried an Earth Environment

Fig. 1 Etch patterns near crucible edges on the (111) faces: (a) space; (b) ground

Crystals taken from Shenzhou 3 experiments (left) compared to the ground control sample (right). Courtesy: COSPAR China.

Monitoring Unit developed by microwave sensing expert Lu Daren in the Institute of Atmospheric Physics. It included the China Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectrometer, C-MODIS, with 34 channels to observe the Earth in visible and infrared light with a resolution of 500 m and a swath of 560 km, providing data for a land, ocean, and atmospheric survey. The spectrometer was used to follow pollutants and chlorophyll in the sea, vegetation on land, desertification, and soil water content. Later, details were released of the hundreds of images collected by the spectrometer, including the sea around north China and forest fires in North America, as well as charts of atmospheric density and composition, the solar constant, and the Earth radiation budget. Atmospheric composition and solar constant charts were published. The atmospheric density meter on Shenzhou 3 recorded densities over half a year in the 330-410-km range. It was a quiet solar period, the most distinctive feature being higher daytime densities and lower night­time densities. The severe solar storms of 17th, 19th, and 22nd April were followed, with air density rising 60% about 6.5 hr after the solar wind reached the Earth. A Solar Irradiance Absolute Radiometer (SIAR) scanned the Sun from March to

September and measured the solar constant at around 1,365 Wm’2. There was a radiation experiment, in which an aluminum box was used to capture heavy ions [6].

American analysts later made a distinctly military interpretation of the payload, believing it was used for electronic intelligence. It is possible that the module carried both electronic direction finders to detect and localize radars while the 550-m aperture camera could be used for visual military observations. According to some analysts, the cabin included a suite of electronic intelligence devices extended from the solar panels, the 50-cm dipoles giving a 4.5-m-wide capability, able to detect radars and electronic devices in the range of 300-1,000 MHz [7].


What is China’s philosophy of space exploration? China’s space goals have been articulated over the years in a series of government economic, defense, and planning statements, documents, and policy papers. Highly political, indeed polemical, language in the 1970s gave way to much more pragmatic statements using frameworks and approaches familiar to students of government and public administration worldwide. Policy statements have attracted particular interest in the United States, where there has been a high level of concern that military and even mahgn objectives have been embedded within the program.

Traditionally, space policy was found within broader plans for economic and scientific development, such as the five-year plans adopted from 1949 onwards and longer-term development plans. For example, spaceflight was an important component of project 863 and was a prominent element within the 1996 National Long and Medium-Term Program for Science and Technology Development, 2000­2020, which included comsats, metsats, satellites for remote sensing, and other applications, providing international launcher services at competitive prices and a new launcher capable of putting 20 tonnes into orbit. It is also fair to say that, as is the case in other countries, the space program has an important national promotional objective, with one white paper referring to its value in inspiring “lofty thoughts”, and presidents such as Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao have often visited and been pictured at its key events – a feature likely to continue with incoming president Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Li Keqiang.

It was not until 2000 that spaceflight development became subject to a national policy statement in its own right, with the publication on 22nd November that year of a dedicated China white paper on its future space program, given the short title of Modernization. Readers expecting a listing of future launch schedules, dramatic reorganization, or announcements of exciting new projects will have been disappointed. Like most government white papers the whole world over, the language was bureaucratic, the aspirations general, and some of the statements quite bland. Positively, the 13-page white paper was economical in the use of language, logical in its presentation, short, and clear. Political sloganeering and point scoring were completely absent and there was no reference to the American embargoes or issues that arose from the Cox report. Like most white papers universally, the real value was in reading between the lines and in scanning the paper for nuances of ideas in train, projects hinted, and new priorities articulated.

First, the white paper recited China’s space achievements, articulated over­arching aims, and listed broad lines of development. The paper recalled how China had to struggle against “weak infrastructure” and a “relatively backward level of science and technology”. The three broad aims of the space program were exploration, applications, and the promotion of economic development. Space development was set in its broader political context and linked to economic progress, environmental protection, and international cooperation. Internation­ally, China would make a point of working closely with the other countries of the Asia-Pacific region.

Second, in designing its space policy, China proposed to select a small number of key areas of development and concentrate on them, rather than try to do everything. China would build on its best abilities and concentrate on a limited number of areas and targets according to its strengths. China would combine self­reliance with international cooperation. The short-term priorities of the space program were:

• Earth observation of the land, atmosphere, and oceans;

• weather forecasting;

• independently operated communications and broadcasting systems with long operating lives, high capacity, and reliability;

• independent satelhte navigation system.

Third, the long-term priorities of the space program were to:

• achieve manned spaceflight;

• “Obtain a more important place in the world in space science”;

• upgrade existing rockets and introduce the next generation of new, low-cost, non-polluting, high-performance rockets;

• develop a national system of remote sensing, ensuring the effective distribution of data throughout the country;

• fly a new generation of satellites for microgravity, materials science, life sciences, space environment, astronomy;

• make pre-studies for exploration of deep space, centering on the Moon.

The white paper articulated a number of what it called “development concepts” to guide the space program over the next number of years. These were:

• space industry organizations were encouraged to market their products as widely as possible, domestically and internationally;

• resources would be available for tackling key, core technological problems;

• recruitment of talented people to the space industry would be encouraged; the aim was to build a contingent of young, highly qualified scientists and engineers;

• the program would continue to emphasize quality control, risk reduction, and skilled management.

The white paper had few surprises, but confirmed the impression of a space program that would concentrate on some key areas in a systematic way. The emphasis on manned flight and a new fleet of launchers was confirmed, although there was no specific mention of a space station. There was a renewed commitment to space applications and space science. Missions to the Moon were, at that time, still something to study rather than to do. Symptomatic of the long-range thinking was the commitment to improve human resources and to address key technological problems.

The second white paper {Acceleration, 2006) emphasized the role of the space program in supporting the economy, indigenous innovation, the quality of science, China’s interests and rights, national strength, and exploration. A key phrase, reiterating an earlier theme, was “China will focus on certain areas while ignoring less important ones. It will choose some limited targets, concentrate its strength on making key breakthroughs and realize leapfrogging development”. The new paper included the commitment to a space walk, rendezvous, and docking; a space laboratory; the forthcoming Moon probe; the development of the Beidou network of navigation satellites; the development of direct broadcast communications satellites;

and a new type of recoverable satellite. The key new phrase, though, was “leapfrogging development”: key areas to make “substantial, overtaking moves” ahead. Substantial investment in infrastructure was promised.

The third white paper, Full Speed Ahead, was published on 29th December 2011. Its principal commitments were listed as:

• completion of the Long March 5 by 2014, aiming to achieve 40% more thrust than the Ariane 5 and matching the American Delta IV; building the Long March 6 and 7;

• construction of the new Hainan space port;

• completion of the Beidou system by 2020, development of advanced remote sensing, and preparation of the Dong Fang Hong 5 series;

• medium-length spaceflight (weeks, rather than months); preparation of the space station;

• preparation of rover and sample return missions, with pre-research on a heavy launch vehicle for a manned lunar landing;

• debris mitigation.

Between the three white papers – Modernization, Acceleration, and Full Speed Ahead – the methodical picking-up of both the scope and pace of the program was readily apparent [2]. The third white paper should also be seen in the context of the Eleventh Five-Year Plan, 2008-2013 in the section “Space Science Development”. This plan was especially interesting in affirming an investment in space science, hitherto a relatively low priority in the program. Space science was divided into headings: space astronomy and solar physics; solar system exploration; microgravity science and life sciences. Specific missions were identified as a priority, such as the manned and lunar program, the Hard X-ray Modulation Telescope (HXMT), Shi Jian 10, Yinghuo, the later-cancelled Small Explorer for Solar Eruptions (SMESE), and the Space Solar Telescope (SST) (see Chapter 7). The plan was divided according to “scientific tasks and problems” and “main tasks”, as shown in Table 10.6. This plan was important, not so much for its detail, but as an attempt to re-estabhsh space science as a priority within the program as a whole.

Interpreting long-term Chinese aims in space has proved to be a difficult exercise. Writers such as Johnson-Freese, Handberg and Li, Kulacki and Lewis, Jones, Oberg, Clark, Sourbes-Verger, Seedhouse, Lardier, and Pirard have worked hard to promote our understanding and disentangle the various drivers of the Chinese space program, such as national ambition, technology and innovation, military, science, and historical imperatives [3]. Some press commentaries have suffered from negative value-driven judgments on China’s political system and its alleged military and territorial ambitions. Popular media have tended to portray China as being in a “race” with the United States and the idea of a contest undoubtedly attracts readers. At a time when India, Japan, and China all launched Moon probes within a few months of each other, the idea of a “race” was especially irresistible (see, e. g. Morris Jones, The New Moon Race, 2009, Rosenberg, Kenthurst, New South Wales, Australia). Kulacki and Lewis, in their interpretation of Chinese space ambitions, A Place for One’s Mat (2009, American Academy of Arts and Sciences), took a fresh

Table 10.6. Problems, objectives, and tasks of the 11th five-year plan.

Scientific problems and objectives

Main tasks

Space astronomy and solar physics: the Sun, stars, black holes, dark energy and dark matter, Earth-like planets

* Hard X-ray Modulation Telescope (HXMT)

* Small Explorer for Solar Eruptions (SMESE)

* Space Solar Telescope (SST)

Space physics and the Sun-Earth system

* Kuafu

Solar system exploration: improved knowledge of the Moon and terrestrial planets

* Lunar (Chang e) and Mars (Yinghuo) exploration

* Orbit, 2007; lander and rover 2012; sample return 2017

Microgravity science: fluid physics, combustion, crystals, materials, and gravitation

* Shi Jian 10

* Follow-up recoverable satellites

Space life sciences: biology, long-term habitation, adaptation to space environment, bioregeneration, biotechnology

* Shi Jian 10

* Follow-up recoverable satellites

Manned spaceflight

* Rendezvous and docking

* Short-term manned, long-term autonomous orbiting space stations

* Research into 0 G, biology, astronomy, physics

approach and emphasized that China has sought a recognized role in space exploration – respect and equality – rather than to “win”. They took the trouble of exploring and explaining the language of the Chinese space program, using original sources from China itself. A typical phrase they encountered was yi xi zhi di, “a place for one’s mat”, equivalent to the English “a seat at the table” (in traditional China, one sat on mats on the floor). They drew attention to a second narrative that China, originally the world leader in science, had, over centuries, lost that pre-eminence to Europe and “the West” – a reputation that should be recovered. Here, spaceflight achievement was probably the most recognized metric of scientific capability. Their conclusions were that China sought membership in the world space community, but neither competition with it nor isolation from it.

Many Western commentaries allege that the military, particularly the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), run the Chinese space program: indeed, a recent report to the United States Congress flatly affirmed that “The PLA dominates China’s space activities” [4]. This is true insofar as key facilities in launching and tracking are managed and staffed by the military, much as was the case in Russia until recently (indeed, the US Navy was the primary agency retrieving American astronauts from the oceans). This affirmation greatly overstates its role, for decisions are made by party and government, with the various agencies responsible reporting to them. The prolonged decisions around the first satellite, the communications satellite, and then the manned program showed that, rather like the Soviet Union, there were a variety of actors (party, government, engineers, scientists), but the military, although present, play a minor role. It is true that the Chinese military have made no secret of their wish to use space for military purposes – in 2005, Major General Chang Xianqi wrote a text on the topic, Military Astronautics – but not in such a way as to mark China as substantially different in its approach from Russia or the United States. While China’s military program is clearly an important part of the space program – a fifth of satelhtes launched – it is not overwhelming.

Perhaps one of the most important indicators as to how the space program fits in with long-term thinking is the China Academy of Sciences’ Science and Technology in China – A Roadmap to 2050: Strategic General Report of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, published in 2009 (edited by Lu Yongxian). This was a monumental report covering energy, information technology, synthetic biology, brain function, ecological agriculture, predictive health, security, and genetics. At a time when the Western economies of Europe and the United States were convulsed by financial crises, China was thinking ahead to its economic future over the following 40 years and the time when its population would rise to 1.5bn. The main report had, as a starting point, the failure of China to take advantage of past opportunities – a mistake it was not going to make again. Previously, China “fell from a world economic power into a poverty-stricken country, subject to insult and humiliation by other powers”. Science and technology offered a way forward – one that China had both the vision and the funding to lead, in a process called “the Great Rejuvenation”. The report singled out 22 technology areas for development, such as photosynthesis, geothermal energy, nanotechnology, regenerative medicine, synthetic biology, and mathematics. The general report was the outcome of 18 separate working groups examining how China would tackle diverse fields of technology, of which space science was one. The Roadmap promised that China would become the world leader in science, just as Europe was in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and the United States was in the twentieth. By mid-century, China aimed to publish more scientific papers and create more inventions than any other country. As Yang Zhijun put it: “We are past the stage of ‘Made in China’. From now one, we want the stamp ‘Invented in China’.” The Roadmap is a fundamental, ground-breaking report – one which went unremarked upon by Western countries and media. A noted exception was Theo Pirard: “The message to the world is clear: start getting used to mandarin and Chinese characters” [5].

The separate space science report, called Space Science and Technology in China – A Roadmap to 2050 (edited by Guo Huadong and Wu Ji), was the outcome of a working group of 40 specialists, institutes, study bodies, and space centers. It spoke of making China, by 2050, a moderately developed, largely modernized country and a leader in modernization. The critical tone of the Roadmap is remarkable, repeatedly emphasizing the gap between China and other countries, accompanied by a spirit of urgency and ambition. The space science proposals were broken down into three timelines: immediate (to 2020), medium-term (2030), and

long-term (2050). The Roadmap had three strategic goals: space science, space applications, and space technology. The space science goals were focused on the origins and evolution of the universe, life, the Sun-Earth system, fundamental physics, and the laws of motion. Space apphcations goals were focused on climate change, ecology, energy, and water. Space technology goals were focused on what were identified as “technical bottleneck problems” such as high-resolution observations, navigation, miniaturization and nano-technology, intelligentization, inter-satellite communications, drag-free control, ultra-high-speed flight, and a permanent human presence in space.

Roadmap to 2050 set important targets to address these bottlenecks. For example, targets for communications were 25 Gbps by 2020, 40 Gbps by 2030, and 100 Gbps by 2050 using lasers and quantum communications, cryptography, and key distribution. Navigation targets for autonomous positioning accuracy on deep- space missions were 100 m by 2015 and 30 m by 2025. New propulsion technologies were selected for development, while power supply development was planned in radio-isotope thermo-electric generators, fuel cells, and solar power. Some of the technologies to be developed are quite exotic, such as maser fountain clocks from 2023 and systems to test theories of gravity, relativity, and the equivalence principle from 2025. In the next stage, experiments in fundamental physics are planned in the areas of gravitational wave detection, quantum information and the transportation of cryptographic keys, and the detection of dark energy and cosmic neutrinos.

Under science, seven lines of development were proposed:

1. The high-energy universe, black matter, stellar oscillations, using telescopes on Chinese space stations;

2. The search for life on other planets, with the mastery of life-support systems to make possible bases on the Moon and Mars;

3. Solar terrestrial relations, with high-resolution telescopes to study the Sun, a solar probe, and the SST in 2015;

4. Following the heliosphere in three dimensions, with the Kuafu mission (probes at LI, L2, and polar orbit) and the SPORT mission over the solar poles; automatic platforms on the lunar surface;

5. Solar system missions to find life;

6. Research with atomic clocks to explore the theory of relativity;

7. Manned flights with experiments in weightlessness on materials and fluids.

In applications, the Roadmap envisaged China developing an infrastructure for Earth observation of global changes in the environment. The objective was a high – resolution Earth observation system by 2020, with groups of small satellites for three-dimensional mapping of weather, the oceans, resources, and the environment, using a combination of small, polar-orbiting, and geosynchronous satellites. It would use three ground stations in Beijing (Miyun), Xinjian (Kashi), and Hainan (Sanya), to be followed by two more stations in China, a ground station in Brazil, and one at the pole.

In technology development, the Roadmap set out seven further areas of development:

1. High-precision observation instruments, such as telescopes of 2 m (2025) and 4 m (2035) with an interferometric telescope (2035), with the development of radars, lidars, and sub-millimeter bands;

2. Development of high-resolution and high-precision (0.01”) instruments across the spectrum, with the associated cryogenic technology;

3. Timing instruments for global positioning, fundamental physics, and the gravitational field;

4. Laser communications for sky-to-ground and inter-satelhte communications at the rate of 100 Gps by 2050, as well as Quantum Information Science & Technology (QIST) and the TerraHertz band;

5. Balloons and sounding rockets, both as technological demonstrators and for environmental studies;

6. Mastery of new navigation systems, propulsion, on-orbit autonomy, as well as advanced propulsion systems (e. g. electric, nuclear, solar wind, radio isotopes, photocatalytic fuel production, antimatter);

7. Development of life-support systems for ever more complex manned spaceflight. China would develop Controlled Ecological Life Support Systems (CELSS) so as to make long space missions self-sustaining. They would be commenced by 2030 so as to make possible the building of the lunar base and China aimed to be a world leader in such systems.

The Roadmap was precise in identifying a number of areas in which China was still very much at the starting post. Autonomous deep-space navigation systems, for example, had first flown on Soviet probes to Mars as far back as 1971, but were not even in the development phase yet in China, so there was much to be done. The Roadmap included a mission timehne (Table 10.7).

A striking feature of the Roadmap, following the 2008-13 five-year plan, is the emphasis on space science. According to the Roadmap, China’s record in space science did not match China’s status as an emerging space power. Although China had invested ¥900m over 1996-2005, China’s contribution to scientific papers worldwide was “a very small portion”. Space telescope technology “lags far behind the international level”. The aim of China’s space science program was to tackle cutting-edge questions, address the questions of basic science, and make original contributions and decisive breakthroughs. One of these was dark matter. According to Zhang Shuang-Nan of the Institute of High Energy Physics, the objective of China’s astrophysics program was to study the universe from its origins through its cycles of matter (e. g. supernova, stars) to its end processes (white dwarfs, neutron stars, and black holes), with a particular interest in dark matter: “At this stage,” he said, “we can explain only 4% of the universe. Dark energy dominates the universe, 73% of it and dark matter 23%. There has been an explosion of interest in dark matter. Not a single scientific paper was published on it in 1998, but by 2008 there were 600 – and we still don’t know!”

So far, he said, China had only a modest space astronomy space program, but this would change. To make a start, a dark matter annihilation detection satellite of 1,200-kg payload would be launched in 2015 into an orbit of 500-600 km. Its

2012 Chang e 3 lander/rover

2014 Chang e 4 lander/rover Kuafu

POLAR on Tiangong 2 HXMT

2015 Mars orbiter via asteroids Chang e 5 sample return Space Solar Telescope

Dark Matter Detection Satellite 2018 Chang e 6 sample return MIT

2020 Optimized Solar Maximum Mission

X-ray Timing and Polarization Satellite (XTP)

Large space station, “cosmic lighthouse” dark matter detection experiment 2025 Mars lander

Cold atomic clock

SPORT Solar Polar Orbit Radio Telescope 2030 Manned lunar landing, lunar physics laboratory Global Solar Exploration 2033 Mars sample return mission

2035 First mission through the asteroids to the outer planets Space Optic Interference Telescope 2040 Lunar base

Lunar Astronomical Observatory 2050 Mars landing

purpose was to make highly sensitive detections of high-energy electrons and gamma rays, separating the signatures of annihilation from known electron and gamma-ray processes using scintillators covering the energy range 5 GeV to 10 TeV. Indeed, China’s ambitious astrophysics program contrasted with a likely gap in Western missions, to the point that some experts had penned, in Science, an article entitled “A Dark Age for Space Astronomy?” [6].

The astronomy and astrophysics part of the Roadmap was divided into six programs:

• Black Hole Program (ВНР);

• Diagnostics of Astro-Oscillations Program (DAO);

• Portraits of Astrophysical Objects Program (РАО);

• Dark Matter Detection Program (DMD);

• Solar Microscope Program (SMP);

• Solar Panorama Program (SP).

Some of these missions have already been described in Chapter 1 (the cosmic lighthouse) and Chapter 7 (space science missions). The other missions newly proposed in the Roadmap are covered here, starting with solar missions.

SPORT will travel for four years to enter a Ulysses-type polar orbit between 0.5 and 1 AU around the Sun in time for its next solar maximum and form a space – based weather monitoring system (Meridian II). It will comprise a mother spacecraft and no fewer than eight subsatellites which will be deployed over the solar north pole. To reach the Sun, two similar possible trajectories using low-thrust gravity assist via Jupiter have been calculated. It will make three-dimensional observations, study the connection of the Sun with the interplanetary medium, provide a plasma cloud map as early warning to the Earth, and watch for interplanetary coronal mass ejections (CMEs), especially CME ejections from out of the ecliptic. SPORT’s scientific objectives are to:

• image high-density plasma clouds from solar polar orbit;

• provide a solar weather-forecasting service;

• measure the solar wind in situ;

• discover the heating and acceleration of the solar wind;

• measure the output of solar energy.

Payloads will include a radio high-frequency microwave imager and an extreme ultraviolet imager [7]. For later solar observations, the Meridian network (Chapter 7) will be extended to the Moon, with a space physics observation platform on the lunar surface to monitor the Sun, the Earth, the solar wind, and the magneto tail, while another solar observatory will be established at LI, using solar sail technology.

This will be followed by three further missions. The Optimized Solar Maximum Mission comprised three elements: Solar Radio Array At extremely Low Frequency (SRALF), to study the solar wind; Solar Explorer for High Energy and Far Infrared radiation (SEHEFI), to observe sudden releases from the Sun; and the Super High Angular Resolution Principle X-ray Telescope (SHARP-X) to observe x-rays at high resolution. Global Solar Exploration is a spacecraft with a full set of multi-waveband instruments to study the Sun at a close distance. The Space Optic Interferometric Telescope would observe the solar photosphere with a resolution of 0.01°.

Examining further astrophysical missions, POLAR is a gamma burst polarization experiment with Switzerland, France, and Poland to survey half the sky in 2014 from the Tiangong 2 space laboratory. Its aim is to measure gamma-ray bursts from 30 to 350 keV. The instrument is a stack of plastic scintillators with a weight of 30 kg. The plan is to make a statistically precise sample of gamma-ray bursts and jets so as to prompt an understanding of what drives them. It will be located mid-way along Tiangong’s exterior. This will be followed by the Space Variable Object Matter (SVOM), now approved and to be developed with France with a 2015-20 launch date. It has the objectives of detecting and locating gamma-ray bursts, measuring the spectral shape of their emissions, determining their temporal qualities, and identifying and measuring afterglows, with the following instruments:

• ECLAR, a wide-field telescope to locate gamma-ray bursts in the hard x-ray and soft gamma-ray band (4-250 keV);

• GRM, a spectrophotometer to monitor gamma-ray bursts (50 keV-5 MeV);

Preparations for the SVOM mission with France are already under way. Courtesy: CNES.

• MXT, a telescope to study afterglow; and

• VT, a 45-cm telescope for the visible afterglow of gamma-ray bursts.

For stellar observations, two missions are planned: an X-ray Timing and Polar Satellite (XTP) and a Gravity Wave Telescope, in 2030 (details of this are not yet available). The XTP will, from 2020, study the light curve and neutron stars. The purpose is to explore black holes and neutron stars in the range of 1-30 keV. So far, a €lm feasibility study has been carried out. The following instruments are envisaged:

• high-energy x-ray collimated array (5-30 keV);

• low-energy collimated array (1-10 keV);

• high-energy x-ray focused array (1-30 keV);

• low energy x-ray focused array (1-10 keV);

• all-sky monitor (2-30 keY);

• polarization observation telescope (1-15 keV).

Astronomy was not the only proposed field of space science. The Roadmap set out an agenda for microgravity research, especially in the areas of fluid physics, combustion, non-metallic materials, smoldering, thermal fluid management, heat and mass transfer, evaporation, condensation, granular systems, metal foams, smelting, materials science, and crystallization.

Such are some of the ambitious missions sketched by the Roadmap. They pre­supposed a much improved launcher capability and this is discussed next.


China’s second satellite followed Dong Fang Hong into orbit nearly a year later, using the Long March 1 on its second and final flight. Now that the propaganda value of launching a first satellite had been demonstrated, China’s second satellite could concentrate on scientific tasks. In effect, this second satellite achieved what the first one had been intended to do had political and propaganda imperatives not risen to the fore during the early design stage. Chief designer was Yang Yiachi (1919— 2006), who spent the years 1947-55 studying in and acquiring qualifications from Harvard, Pennsylvania University, and the Rockefeller Institute.

The tasks of the second satellite were agreed at a conference held in the Chinese Academy for Space Technology in Beijing in May 1970. The second satellite received a new designation, Shi Jian (meaning “practice” in Chinese). Slightly heavier at 221 kg, Shi Jian eventually entered orbit on the evening of 3rd March 1971. The mission got off to a problematic start, for, although the explosive bolts separating the satelhte from the third stage fired, the satellite did not separate from its carrier rocket. Enveloped within the third stage, the signals transmitted were weak – only about 1 % of what had been hoped for. The designers were, as one might imagine, perplexed and worried. On the eighth day, the signals suddenly came through loud and clear. Ground observations confirmed that the satellite had now separated from the launcher. Beijing did not announce the launch until 16th March, presumably when separation had been confirmed and stronger signals had been received.

Shi Jian was, like its predecessor, a 72-side polyhedron, but covered in solar cells which charged a long-Ufe two-watt nickel-cadmium battery. In place of the anthem­playing tape recorder, Shi Jian carried three scientific instruments – an 11-mm cosmic ray detector, a 3-mm x-ray detector (1-8 A), and a magnetometer. A hundred automatic thermal shutters closed as the spacecraft entered darkness, opening again as it entered Ught (a similar system was carried by Sputnik 3). Using four short-wave antennae, the radio transmitter emitted a stream of scientific data on 16 channels which could be picked up 3,000 km away. The instruments recorded solar x-ray electrons over 0.88 MeV and protons over 16.9 MeV, while the magnetometer made the first Chinese mapping of the Earth’s magnetic field. Shi Jian continued to transmit scientific data until it burned up in the upper atmosphere on 17th June 1979. The battery and telemetry systems showed no evidence of deterioration and maintained the same high level of performance throughout the mission, despite 10,000 charging and recharging cycles (one for each orbit as the satelhte went into and came out of darkness). The design teams rightly received commendations for these achievements in 1978. The 3,028-day mission appears to have been completely successful. The satellite enabled geophysicists to publish a reference Handbook of the Artificial Satellite Environment.

Shi Jian was very much the achievement of Professor Zhao Jiuzhang, the pioneer of Chinese space science and the founder of the Institute of Applied Physics, which became the Institute of Space Physics [4]. Despite his importance, he is hardly known outside China. Zhao Jiuzhang was bom on 15th October 1907, in Kaifeng, Henan. First, he went to study electrical engineering at Zhejiang Industrial School, now University, in Hangzhou, going on to graduate in physics at Tsinghua University in 1933 and, like most of his colleagues, he went abroad for further study, going to the most scientifically advanced country in Europe – Germany, where he was awarded his doctorate in dynamic meteorology in Berlin in 1938. He returned to China in 1949, where he became director of the Institute of Geophysics immediately after the revolution. He became an expert in the atmosphere, air masses, trade winds, solar energy, charged particles, and magnetic fields. His main achievement was to ensure an early scientific orientation for the space program and set a benchmark for the future. He died on 26th October 1968. Much later, his contribution became ever more appreciated. In 1989, an award for “young and middle-aged scientists” was established in his honor, with 79 scientists winning this much-coveted award in the subsequent 20 years. An asteroid, §7811, was named after him, a COSPAR prize was established to commemorate him in 2006 in the fields of space and atmospheric physics, and the Academy of Sciences held a meeting to commemorate his centenary on 29th October 2009.


Zhao Jiuzhang, father of Chinese space science.


Shi Jian 1, China’s first scientific satellite.


Our knowledge of the sounding rocket program in China is fragmentary and incomplete. When the satellite project was canceled in 1958, engineers set to work on the modest but nonetheless challenging objective of building a sounding rocket (Chapter 2). Directed by Wang Xiji, they made two successful launches with the T – 7M in February and September 1960, reaching 8-km altitude. Later saw the development of meteorological sounding rockets called the He Ping (“peace”) series, a two-stage solid-fuel rocket. He Ping 2 was 6.645 m tall, weighed 331 kg, and was able to reach 72 km. Its first flight took place in 1967, serial production began the

China’s first sounding rocket, the T-7, flown from 1959.

He Ping meteorological and sounding rocket, which first flew in 1967.

following year, and 49 He Ping 2s were launched from 1970 to 1973. The He Ping 6 series began to fly from Jiuquan in 1971, with a final round of nine launches as high as 90 km in 1979. The third series of sounding rockets was called Zhinui (Weaver Girl), beginning in 1988 from Haikou, Hainan. The Zhinui came in two series: the 1 and the 3. The Weaver Girl 3 rocket was 4.87 m tall, weighed 285 kg, has a payload of 45 kg, and can reach 147 km. By 1997, there had been 22 launches [6].

Sounding rockets resumed in 2008 with the launch of a sounding rocket in connection with the Meridian space weather monitoring project. A second launching was reported on 9th May 2011, the rocket identified as the solid-fuel Tianying 3C, also part of the Meridian program, designed to measure the micro-constituents of the atmosphere, electric fields, ion density, and electron temperatures up to 200 km. Its performance was reported as an altitude of 220 km with an experimental package of 50 kg. According to the program for the future development of Chinese space science, Roadmap 2050 (Chapter 10), China had done far too little work with sounding rockets since the 1980s and was now lagging in such critical areas as payload mass, data processing, and the ability to develop serial production.


A January 2000 launch of a domestic communications satellite appeared to be routine. The launching on the Long March ЗА went smoothly enough, but further difficulties came up with the satellite’s name. Some reports called it Zhongxing 22 (or Chinastar 22). However, the “22” came from the location or slot allocated for satellites in 24-hr orbit (98°E, in the event): it was clearly not the 22nd satellite in this or any other series. Eventually, the 2.3-tonne comsat, almost certainly using the DFH 3 design, acquired the name Feng Huo 1, “fire and smoke” in Chinese, named after an ancient system of communicating using beacons along the Great Wall. Whenever invaders threatened ancient China, beacons had been lit all along the wall – a much faster method of warning than horseback. Built by the China Space Technology Institute, Feng Huo appeared to be a test of mobile frequencies for the Chinese military. American intelligence experts went further and said Feng Huo was part of a new command-and-control network, providing targeting capability for ballistic, cruise, ship, and aircraft-borne missiles. Both the United States and Russia used dedicated military communications satellites, so it was no surprise that the Chinese should eventually do the same. Director of the Feng Huo was Peng Shoucheng, bom in 1943, a graduate of Harbin Institute of Military Engineering, originally an expert in electronic countermeasures who had played a key role on the Dong Fang Hong 2 series of comsats. The official owner was identified as the China Telecommunications Broadcast Company, which operated under the Ministry of Post & Telecommunications.

The name Feng Huo was infrequently used by the Chinese. Instead, a new name appeared with the next mission – Shentong – launched in November 2003 and, again referring to the orbital slot allocated, also given the name of both Zhongxing 20 and Zhongxing 21. The third in September 2006 was called Zhongxing 22A, but this again referred to the location, not the satellite, and in effect was co-located with the first, but the Shentong title was not given. This mission was probably a replacement for the first Feng Huo and is called Feng Huo 2 here. The fourth launch on 24th November 2010 was called Zhongxing 20A, located over 130°E and identified as Shentong 1-2. It followed a straight path to geosynchronous orbit, where it arrived after four days. Little information was given on the Zhongxing 1A mission (September 2011), except for a report that debris came down in inhabited areas: one piece damaged houses in Sanxikou in Guizhou, while another fell near Mingkeng village in Jianxi. It was given neither a Feng Huo nor a Shentong designator, but could be either. It was almost certainly the first to use the DFH-4 bus, then becoming the standard communications satellite bus, with the May 2012 mission being the second occasion: certainly this would explain the use of the more powerful CZ-3B.

Chinese literature and promotional material have given little attention to the series, supporting the notion that it might be military. Trying to disentangle and interpret this series is quite hazardous. The precise difference between Feng Huo and Shentong is not known, but Shentong may have Ku-band multiple steerable spot beam antennae. The fifth mission, in May 2012, was given the identifier Shentong 2. It is possible that the two names indicate different owners, Shentong being an army project and Feng Huo combined military forces. The series is summarized in Table 5.3.

Table 5.3. Feng Huo/Shentong.

Feng Huo


Feng Huo 1 Zhongxin 22

25 Jan 2000


GEO 98°E

CZ-3A, Xi Chang


Feng Huo 2 Zhongxing 22A

12 Sep 2006


GEO 98°E

CZ-3A, Xi Chang


Zhongxing 1A

18 Sep 2011


GEO 130°E

CZ-3B, Xi Chang



Shentong 1 Zhongxing 20/21

15 Nov 2003


GEO 103°E

CZ-3A, Xi Chang


Shentong 1-2 Zhongxing 20A

24 Nov 2010


GEO 130°E

CZ-3A, Xi Chang


Shentong 2

26 May 2012


GEO 98°E

CZ-3B, Xi Chang

Zhongxing 2A


Even as the space powers built ever bigger and more powerful launchers, the 1990s saw, paradoxically, the introduction worldwide of ever-smaller satellites. This development was made possible by electronic microcircuits and more sophisticated computers that permitted satellites to be not only much smaller, but also much smarter – able to do more and more without the intervention of ground control. These new versatile satellites could be launched on smaller, less-expensive rockets (e. g. the American Pegasus) or as piggyback payloads on existing rockets (e. g. Russian Dnepr), thus cutting costs even further. Technically, this new generation could be divided into small satellites (less than 500 kg), micro-satellites (less than 100 kg), nano-satellites (less than 10 kg), and even pico-satellites (less than 1 kg!). The principal developer of “large” small satellites is the DFH Satellite Co., a subsidiary of CAST, which makes three buses: CAST100 (50-250 kg); CAST2000
(300-1,000 kg), and CAST968 (around 400 kg). “Small” satellites have generally been made in the universities.

China was quick to join the micro-satellite revolution. Tsinghua University was the center of micro-electronics in China and hosted the National Aerospace High Technology Space Robotic Engineering Research Centre. The center obtained project 863 funding for the development of micro-satellites and set up the Tsinghua Satellite Technology Company in 1998 as a joint enterprise of China Space Machinery and Electrical Equipment Group, Tsinghua University Enterprise, and Tsinghua Tongfang Company. The engineers there turned to the world leaders in this technology, the University of Surrey in England (Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL)), to build their first micro-satellite.

China’s first small satellite entered 700-km high orbit on 20th June 2000, lofted by a Russian Cosmos 3M rocket from Plesetsk. The 75-kg micro-satellite, duly called Tsinghua 1, was 1.2 m high with a volume of only 0.07 m3. No sooner was Tsinghua in orbit than it sent back its first photographs of the China Sea. Tsinghua carried a camera system able to image the Earth in three spectral bands with 39-m resolution so as to monitor vegetation, floods, wild fires, desertification, and red tides. Within a month, it had sent back over 100 images, which the university made available free to anyone requesting them. Its design life was 10 years and, according to senior engineers at Tsinghua, Xu Xin, was a serious attempt to close the gap with Indian and Western imaging systems. In orbit, it also took part in rendezvous maneuvers with another Surrey satellite, the 6.45-kg nano-satellite SNAP-1 (Surrey Nano­satellite Applications Platform). Following its success, China announced the establishment of a National Research Centre for Small Satellites and Related Applications. First ground for an 8,000-m2 site was broken on 20th April 2003.

The University of Tsinghua hoped that this would pave the way for a constellation of micro-satellites, also to be developed with SSTL, a fleet of 70-kg disaster-warning satellites. This fleet would comprise satelhtes from China, Algeria, Nigeria, Turkey, and Britain in a high polar orbit. This five-satellite Disaster Monitoring Constellation (DMC) was duly launched, the Chinese one called Beijing 1 or DMC-4. Built by SSTL for Beijing Landview Mapping Information Technology, it was launched on Cosmos 3M from Plesetsk on 27th October 2005 into a 686-km Sun-synchronous orbit. Beijing 1 was 166 kg in weight, carried a 4-m panchromatic camera capable of transmitting real-time data at 40 МВ/sec, and a 32­m multispectral camera with a swath of 600 km. It had a hard disk with 240-GB storage, accessible at any time. By 2007, it had completed a 32-m-resolution cloud – free map of all China, with a 4-m-resolution map of Beijing. Part of the approach of Surrey was that engineers would learn from their participation in such a satellite so that they could apply the same methods to build their own – an example followed in the case of Nigeria. Meantime, as a learning exercise, Tsinghua went on to build Naxing, substantially more sophisticated and the smallest satellite with three-axis stabilization [21].

On 27th June 2011, SSTL signed an agreement with 21 AT (21st Century Aerospace Technology) for a new satellite to be part of a new DMC, the agreement being witnessed by the two respective prime ministers, David Cameron and Wen

China’s first micro-satellite, developed with British assistance. Courtesy: SSTL.

Jiabao. It would be a three-satellite constellation to launch on a Russian Dnepr from Dombarovsky, each of the new satellites having a resolution of 1 m (panchromatic imaging) and 3 m (multispectral). The agreement gave 21 AT exclusive access to the images of China for mapping purposes.

China’s first indigenous micro-satellite was the 88-kg Chuangxin, meaning “creation” or “innovation” – a program associated with the Academy of Sciences Knowledge Innovation Program. This was a store-and-forward communications satellite built in the southern part of the country by the Shanghai Academy for Space Technology Engineering Centre for Micro-satellites for the Academy of Sciences and Shanghai Telecom. It was launched in October 2003 piggyback on the CBERS 2 Brazilian-Chinese Earth resources satellite. It was developed to assist in hydrology, meteorology, and disaster relief: Chuangxin works by picking up data from monitoring points, buoys, and meters, collecting data on water, hydrology, and

electric power and then relaying them to a center source. Tracked by terminals in Shanghai, Beijing, Xinjiang, and Hainan, it showed off its digital communications capacities and was unaffected by two strong solar flares and 29 single-particle incidents. The following two Chuangxin, 1-02 and 1-03, were put into orbit on Tansuo 2 and 4, respectively (see above).

China’s first pico-satellite (1 kg) was MEMS, deployed with Yaogan 2. Its purpose was to test accelerometers, micro-gyros, infrared sensors, and a camera for Zhejiang University and the Shanghai Institute of Microsystems and Information Technology. It had 26 sides (18 square faces and eight triangle faces), two antennae, and 17 solar cells of 270 cm2 able to provide 2 W of power. The satellite had no moving parts, attitude control, or propulsion system. S-band telemetry is relayed at 4 kbps at 2,300 MHz, with uplink on 2,100 MHz. It is more than likely that the subsequent Pixing subsatellites detached by Yaogan 11, although heavier at 2.5 kg and 3.5 kg, respectively, are derivatives of MEMS, as they were developed in the same laboratory [22].

Other small satellites have been carried piggyback into orbit. Xi Wang was an amateur small radio satellite deployed from Yaogan 8. A small technology development satellite, Tianxun 1, was launched with Yaogan 12 in November 2011. Meaning “day tour”, it was built by Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics. It is a 58-kg satellite with a 2.5-kg Earth imaging camera of resolution 30 m built by Suzhou University. Yaogan 14 deployed a small satellite for the National University of Defence Technology. Called Tiantuo 1, or “space pioneer”, it carried an imager, atomic oxygen sensor, and maritime tracking sensor. Between them, these 10 satellites gave China considerable edge in the development of small satellites. Small satellites are summarized in Table 6.12.

Table 6.12. Micro-satellites: date, weight, and mother craft.

Chuangxin 1-01

21 Oct 2003

88 kg



18 Apr 2004

25 kg

Tansuo 1


25 May 2007

1 kg

Yaogan 2

Chuangxin 1-02

5 Nov 2008

88 kg

Tansuo 3

Xi Wang

15 Dec 2009

50 kg

Yaogan 8

Pixing 1

22 Sep 2010

2.5 kg

Yaogan 11

Pixing 2

3.5 kg

Tianxun 1

9 Nov 2011

58 kg

Yaogan 12

Chuangxin 1-03

20 Nov 2011

88 kg

Tansuo 4

Tiantuo 1

10 May 2012

9 kg

Yaogan 14

For Banxing micro-satellite, see Chapter 8. Two unnamed small satellites flew with Yaogan 9.