Category China in Space


The story of the early Chinese space program concludes with its founder, Tsien Hsue Shen, who must rate as China’s greatest scientist engineer of the twentieth century.

Once China’s first satellite reached orbit, Tsien appears to have retreated from an active leadership role. He became drawn into the political turbulence, either wittingly or not – we do not know. He should have stuck to rocket science, for he chose the losing side, Jiang Qing’s Gang of Four, later spending many years trying to get back on side with Deng Xiaoping, even writing slavishly pro­party pieces by way of recantation. He was eventually rewarded in 1991 when the government marked his 80th birthday by bestowing on him the award of “State Scientist of Outstanding Contribution”.

EPILOGUE: TSIEN HSUE SHENTsien Hsue Shen never attended international space conferences and made only one trip abroad, briefly to the Soviet Union (although there is Tsien Hsue Shen in the 1970s. an unconfirmed report he once made

a private family visit to the United States in 1972). Tsien was very hurt by his treatment in the United States in the 1950s and the failure of subsequent governments to apologize for their wrongdoing so he resolved not to have any further formal dealings with them. As a cultural statement, he wore the Zhongshan tunic, never ever again putting on a Western suit. A partisan congressional investigation into Chinese rocketry in the 1990s, the Cox report, reopened old wounds when it reconvicted him of the original spying charges, accusing him of making off with the Titan rocket design. This would have been remarkable, for it had not even been commissioned then and he had been obhged to leave all his notes behind in any case.

Tsien corresponded with some of his colleagues in CalTech until the cultural revolution but then the trail went cold. CalTech alone kept faith with him and acclaimed him a Distinguished Alumni in 1979 (he did not collect it, but sent a gracious acknowledgment). Two years later, one of his old friends from CalTech, Frank Marble, arranged to meet up when he was giving guest lectures at the Academy of Sciences Graduate School of Science & Technology in Beijing and offered to transfer his old papers. No, said Tsien, your American students need them more than my Chinese ones! But he changed his mind and the Tsien papers returned to China in 2001, some going to the Institute of Mechanics, others to a library set up by the government at Jiatong University, Xian. Extracts from the papers were published in a commemorative Manuscripts of HS Tsien 1938-55 in honor of his 90th birthday in 2001. His friend Frank Marble brought his CalTech award to his

home in a ceremony which received widespread coverage in the Chinese media. They reminisced about CalTech and the days of Theodore von Karman. His American – born son became a graduate of CalTech, his daughter a doctor with a successful practice.

As his long life neared its end, Tsien received occasional coverage in the Chinese press. When the first Shenzhou returned to the Earth in November 1999, President Jiang Zemin went to visit him to tell him about the successful mission. He gave a set of press interviews on his 90th birthday in 2001, when several journalists visited him and spotted a model of Shenzhou on his bookshelf. By the time Yang Liwei flew into space two years later, Tsien was bed-bound. The renowned American magazine, Aviation Week & Space Technology, awarded him the title of Person of the Year in 2007. Tsien died on 30th October 2009, aged 98, survived by his opera singer wife Jiang Ying and their two children. A commemorative symposium was held on 8th December 2011, to mark the 100th anniversary of his birth.

His biographer, Iris Chang, believes that Tsien gave the Chinese leadership, Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai, the confidence that, by investing in rocketry, the money would be well spent and there would be positive outcomes. Tsien brought discipline and coherence to the engineers and scientists who built China’s first rocket and satellite, establishing and leading the institutes that were essential for a national, coordinated space effort. He created the intellectual infrastructure for the development of Chinese science, insisting that his scientists and engineers build up a proper system of reference books and materials, not just in Chinese, but in Russian and English, too. She believes that, had he stayed in the United States, he would never have achieved his subsequent prominence: his real achievement was to build up a space program in such a challenging environment as the China of the 1950s and 1960s. One of the last things he did was to give permission to his secretary to write his biography, but only once he was gone. Then we should know more.


[1] Bonnet-Bidaud, J.-M. Old Chinese Star Charts. Presentation in Alliance Fran£aise, Dublin, 6 September 2011; Needham, J. Science and Civilization in China, 27 vols. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (1954).

[2] Chien, Lai-Chen et al. Rocket Weapons in Ancient China. International Academy of Astronautics, 34th History Symposium, Rio de Janiero, 2001; Aerodynamic Aspects of an Ancient Chinese Multi-Stage Rocket – the Fire Dragon. International Academy of Astronautics, 35th History Symposium, Toulouse, 2001.

[3] Handberg, R.; Li, Zhen. Chinese Space Policy: A Study in Domestic and International Politics. Routledge, Abingdon (2007).

[4] Hu, Wen-Rui. Space Science in China: Progress and Prospects. In: Hu, W.-R. (ed.), Space Science in China. Gordon & Breach, Amsteldijk (1997).

[5] Grahn, S. The Satellites Launched by FB-1. Available online at www. sven- grahn. pp. se, 31 January 2000.


A key feature affecting the quality and outcome of any space program is its international links and they should be considered an important adjunct to the domestic infrastructure. From 1956 to 1977, with the exception of the brief period of the Sino-Soviet accord (1956-60), China developed its space program relying almost entirely on its indigenous resources. During the period of rectification and reconstruction, Deng Xiaoping led a policy of openness and cooperation. A series of exchange visits and meetings kick-started the process in 1977-79, with Japan and the United States, and collectively and individually with the members of the European Space Agency. China’s first international agreement was with France. The protocol agreed between the two countries covered cooperation in the areas of communications satellites and the surveying of natural resources, launchers, and balloons. The Chinese were invited to watch the launch of an Ariane rocket. An agreement with Italy shortly afterwards involved the use by the Chinese of an Italian communications satellite called Sirio, which was moved from its normal position in geosynchronous orbit (15°W) to 65°E to test out ground stations in anticipation of China’s first comsat. A memorandum was then signed with the European Space Agency as a whole in 1986, supplemented by bilateral agreements with many of its individual members.

In the course of time, links were built up with over 40 countries, taking in a broader range of countries such as India, Japan, South Korea, Canada, and Ukraine. The standard procedure was for the first contacts to lead to bilateral visits, the exchange of minutes of meetings, followed by a protocol for cooperation initialed by the two governments. The most intense cooperation has been with Russia, which, in the 1990s, established a bilateral commission meeting alternately in Moscow and Beijing, with 21 cooperation areas and eight priority themes, extended to cover manned spaceflight. A second agreement was signed in November 2005 to run from 2007 to 2016 and was extended to cover interplanetary missions. Joint projects have been undertaken with Europe (Dragon (see Chapter 6) and Doublestar (see Chapter 7)) and Brazil (CBERS (see Chapter 6)). Of concern to some Western countries, though, has been Chinese missile, rather than space, cooperation with North Korea and Iran, where there are reports of a murky circle of supplies of parts and equipment [7].

Deng Xiaoping (gesticulating, on left), with rocket engines as a backdrop, led the

process of modernization, openness, and cooperation.

Cooperation with the United States has had – and continues to have – many ups and downs (Chapter 5), but scientific cooperation has been more stable. The Chinese signed an exchange agreement with the United States in 1978 and an Understanding on Cooperation in Space Technology in 1979. A Joint Commission on Scientific and Technological Cooperation was meeting by 1980 and working groups were set up. Later, two small Chinese student chemical and materials experiments flew on board the Space Shuttle (mission STS-42) in January 1992. A Chinese alpha magnetic spectrometer flew on the Space Shuttle Discovery mission to the Mir space station in June 1998. Two Chinese universities – Southeastern in Nanjing and Jiaotong in Shanghai – later participated through the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, flown up to the International Space Station in 2011.

Following the opening developed by Deng Xiaoping, China joined the principal range of international space-related organizations: the International Astronautical Federation, the International Telecommunications Union, the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS), International Maritime Satellite Association, INMARSAT, COSPAR, the International Telecommunica­tions Union (which allocates frequencies for comsats), and the International Organization for Standardization. China signed the main international outer space treaties of the United Nations – those for the exploration and use of outer space, the return of stranded astronauts, responsibihty for damage caused by space objects, and the registration of objects launched into space. China joined the COSPAS/SARSAT international satellite-based sea and land distress and rescue system: this uses American and Russian satellites to relay distress calls from ships foundering at sea (most famously to rescue stranded yachtsmen).

Perhaps the moment which marked the end of China’s coming of age in the international space community was the 47th International Astronautical Congress (IAC), held in Beijing in October 1996. Attended by 2,000 domestic and over 1,000 foreign delegates, the congress was opened by Chinese President Jiang Zemin and hosted by Prime Minister Li Peng. The Chinese put their space industry on show, brought Westerners around Chinese space facilities, unveiled plans for their own space future, and appealed for greater international cooperation between China and its international partners (the International Astronautical Federation announced a return to Beijing in 2013). In September 2001, China welcomed 300 delegates from 20 countries to the 6th Asia-Pacific Conference on Space Cooperation and its secretariat was established in China.


The Chinese did not give up easily and tried a number of strategies to circumvent the American ITAR blockade. They had some Western allies in the form of European communications satellite companies. Normally, they used some American compo­nents, but it dawned on both them and China that, if they built their satelhtes without any American components, they could legally evade the American restrictions and still launch on Chinese rockets, such satellites being “ITAR-free”. Several European companies worked with China. These ranged from large comsat – makers like Alcatel, later called Thales Alenia, which made entire satellites, to small companies like Belgium’s Spacebel in Angleur, which provided software to test computer circuits, while ETCA in Charleroi provided power condition units. Circumventing ITAR with European companies was the next challenge and, later, China would move to developing countries in the search of fresh customers.

China first got around the ITAR restrictions when it launched Apstar 6 on 12th April 2005 on a CZ-3B from Xi Chang. Its significance, though, was that the comsat was a Spacebus 4000 built by Thales Alenia. It was guaranteed “ITAR-free”, without a single American component – a significant break through the ITAR wall, although this had been achieved at additional manufacturing costs. With 38 C-band and 12 Ku-band transponders, it was initially located at 142°E and moved to its assigned position at 134°E a month later. Apstar 6 marked the return of China to the world launcher market after seven years.

This was followed by more ITAR-free launches, Chinasat 9 and 6B, both built in Europe. Zhongxing 6B2 was launched on the CZ-3B on 5th July 2007 into an initial geosynchronous orbit of 233-49,721 km at 24.2° before reaching 24-hr orbit, where its 38 transponders beamed signals to China and the Pacific. Zhongxing 9 (Chinasat 9) was launched on CZ-3B on 9th June 2008, starting with a bum into an even higher super-synchronous orbit (245-49,592 km). This was a 4.5-tonne Thales Alenia Spacebus 4000 with 22 channels and 11-kW power. It was initially sent to 92.2°E to broadcast the Olympic Games, before turning its signals to the rural areas, where it was designed to reach 270m people using dishes as small as 45 cm.

This was followed by another Thales Aliena satellite, Apstar 7, for APT of Hong Kong in March 2012. It started with a record-high super-synchronous orbit out to 50,101 km before going on to provide high-power TV and com­munications services across Asia, Eur­ope, Australia, the Middle East, and Africa, replacing Apstar 2R, scheduled to operate until 2028.

China in 2007 signed an agreement with Indonesia to launch a new Palapa satellite, Indosat, in 2011, another Spacebus 4000. This was duly launched by a CZ-3B on 31st August 2009, but a failure of one of the engines on the third stage stranded it in an orbit of 221-21,135 km. The satellite was able to use its station­keeping motor with four burns to reach geosynchronous orbit on 16th September, much to China’s re­lief, although the fuel cost would reduce the satellite’s lifetime from 15 to 10 years.

The Americans reacted badly to Europe’s successful and entirely legal evasion of ITAR. In 2008, Republican congressmen introduced budget amendments to punish any European or other countries having any dealing with China, ITAR-free or not, such as keeping them out of the American aerospace market. This did not deter the large, long-standing international satellite communications supplier Eu – telsat, which, in spring 2009, an­nounced that it would commission Thales Alenia to build for its next satellite, Eutelsat 3C, ITAR-free, and have it launched on the Long March. The Chinese offered Eutelsat a price in the order of €35m to €50m, way below that of the Russian Proton. In the congress, Republican congressmen like Dana Rohrabacher (California) threatened sanctions against Eutelsat. He attacked the notion of the Chinese launching any commercial
satellites, saying that the technology would end up with rogue nations and countries developing weapons for mass destruction. China eventually launched Eutelsat W3C on 7th October 2011, but minimized the launch publicity so as not to irritate the Americans needlessly.


Shi Jian 1, in March 1971, was China’s first scientific satellite and highly successful (Chapter 1). It was eight years before China was again ready to launch scientific satellites. This time, the Chinese attempted to launch three satellites in one go. This was by no means unusual, for the Russians had pioneered three-in-one launches in 1964 and had even launched eight-in-one missions (coincidentally, the first taking place the day after Dong Fang Hong was put into orbit in 1970). This is not to minimize the achievement, for the deployment of three scientific packages in this manner can often be accident-prone (as more advanced space nations have sometimes been reminded, to their cost). The original Shi Jian 2 project dated to 1972, when it was defined as a single space physics satellite to cover eight fields of work. In the course of refinement, three more areas were added, with design concluded by the end of 1974. An extensive instrumentation package was prepared (Table 7.1).

Table 7.1. Shi Jian 2 instruments.


Semi-conductor electron unidirectional intensity detector Semi-conductor proton unidirectional intensity detector Semi-conductor electronic directional probe Scintillation counter

Four-channel long-wave infrared radiometer Two-channel short-wave infrared radiometer Earth atmosphere ultraviolet background radiometer Solar ultraviolet radiometer Solar soft x-ray proportional counter Thermoelectric ionization barometer

The orbit was planned for 250-3,000 km, inclination 70°, with an operational lifetime of six months. Shi Jian 2 was a 257-kg, eight-sided, 1.23-m-diameter prism, 1.1m high, with four small solar panels. The Shi Jian 2 had a single ultra-short-wave transmission system at 40.5 MHz and 162 MHz, and would send back telemetry both in real time and by tape recorder able to hold 520,000 bits of data at a time. It was the first Chinese satellite to store information for later retransmission, being dumped to ground stations during overpasses of China, and was the first Chinese satellite to use solar panels (as distinct from solar cells attached to the main body of the spacecraft, like Shi Jian 1). Each panel was 1.14 m long and 0.56 m wide, making a total span of 2.55 m2. The four solar panels contained 5,188 small solar cells, generating 140 W, which charged nickel cadmium batteries. It was the first Chinese satellite to have a full solar orientation system to point it towards the Sun and thereby obtain maximum solar power to support the electric demands of the scientific instruments. A hydrazine-fueled thruster system would keep the satellite’s panels pointed towards the Sun, rotating the spacecraft at 15-20 revolutions per minute. Shi Jian 2 made extensive use of the louver system of thermal control so successful on Shi Jian 1. The satellite represented a substantial advance in satelhte design.

Although originally intended for launch on the Long March, it was calculated that, if the Feng Bao launcher were used, it would be possible to lift two other satellites at the same time, although this also meant an alteration to the orbit, to 59.5°, 240-2,000 km. The first Chinese three-in-one launch came to grief and failed to reach orbit on 28th July 1979 when the Feng Bao’s second-stage vernier engine, designed for the final low-powered thrust to orbit, failed. There was a spare Shi Jian 2, but the other two satellites had to be built from scratch.

A fresh attempt was organized and Shi Jian 2, 2A, and 2B were put into orbit in darkness on 19th September 1981. No fewer than 59 separate operations had to be carried out perfectly in sequence for the separation procedure to work – and it did. The scientific satellites entered similar orbits: 232-1,615 km, 59.5°, 103 min. The other two satellites were entirely different: Shi Jian 2A, the main one, was heavier, bell-shaped, with two cones and antenna, while Shi Jian 2B was a combined metal

Shia Jian 2 series in assembly.

Shi Jian 2 satellite.

ball and balloon, linked by a thin wire and designed to measure decay rates due to atmospheric drag. The three satellites operated for 332, 382, and six days, respectively. Shi Jian 2 provided details of the configuration, distribution, and boundaries of the Earth’s radiation belts. By flying during the period of an 11-year peak of solar activity, it was able to measure radiation from our Sun at its most violent and enable predictions of solar storms to be made.


The mission profile for Shenzhou 7-а space walk – was announced as far back as 2005 and Chinese men were already practicing in the hydrotank in Moscow’s Star Town that February. Two years later, it was announced that work had begun on their spacesuit. By then, the astronaut training center had its own hydrotank in the training center, 10 m deep and 23 m across, with a crane to lower astronauts into the water and a team of six to eight divers to accompany the simulation. Zhang Baiman was announced as being in charge of the mission. On 10th July 2007, an Iliyushin 76 delivered the spacecraft to Jiuquan, the arrival being greeted by school children with flowers.

The first space walker, Zhai Zhigang, was named in the press in August and followed in the tradition of the first space walkers, Alexei Leonov (March 1965) and Ed White (June 1965). Zhai Zhigang came from Longjiang, Qiqihaer, Heilongjiang. His domestic circumstances were difficult, for his father was invahded and his mother ilhterate, although determined to get her children an education. Like Nie Haisheng, the Air Force was his route to a career. His colleagues reckon that he won selection because of his sanguine behavior – “he always wore a smile, whatever happened”, they said. His hobbies were fixing gadgets, calligraphy, and dancing. His companions were Liu Buoming and Jing Haipeng, both Air Force pilots. All were born in 1966, the year of the horse, considered a good omen in China. One difference from the 1965 missions was that the commander would make the space walk (back then, the commander was the man who stayed inside). Liu Buoming would join the space walk but remain mainly inside the cabin, while Jing Haipeng stayed in the fully pressurized command module.

For the mission, China had bought nine Orion suits from Russia in April 2004 – three flight suits, two low-pressure training suits, and four suitable for hydrotank tests. From them, China had built its own suit, called the Feitian. For purposes of comparison, the space walker would wear the Chinese Feitian, but a second yuhangyuan would wear an Orlan suit in the depressurized orbital cabin. For their own suit, they tested both Russian-style oxygen-nitrogen (air) Orlan suits and Ughter

Zhai Zhigang’s Feitian. China tested two suits, the other being the Russian Orion. Courtesy: Mark Wade.

American-style oxygen-only suits at 0.3 atmospheres but which require pre­breathing for about a half-hour, as well as preventative measures against fire and the bends, deciding on the American system. The suit weighed 110 kg, had an endurance of 7 hr, and carried 1.9 L of water [12]. A number of other important changes were made. First, the exterior of the orbital module was stripped down so as to make a clear path for the space walkers. The solar panels were removed, as were 16 thrusters. In their place, the designers installed handrails, five air bottles, two cameras, a 40-kg subsatellite, and an experimental package. The primary purpose of the mission was to make a space walk and, once that was accomplished, Shenzhou would return to the Earth, mission duration being set at 68 hr.

For tracking, five comships were deployed: Yuan Wang 1 and 2 in the eastern Pacific, Yuan Wang 3 in the Atlantic, and Yuan Wang 5 and 6 in the north Pacific, supplemented by 12 tracking stations (including the overseas ones in Malindi, Swakopmund, Karachi, and Santiago), as well as the Tian Lian data relay satellite over the Indian Ocean. This time, tourists were invited to watch the launch, the fee being ¥15,000 (€1,500).

The CZ-2F was brought out to the pad on 23rd September 2008 and fuelled up. The three yuhangyuan held a press conference the following day, the 24th, and met the president. On the afternoon of 25th September, they suited up and traveled to the launch pad in the transfer van, to be greeted by a noisy crowd of workers, children, and well-wishers. The three men made their way to the launch station, where they stopped, saluted the launch commander, announced their readiness to carry out their mission, and, to further jostling and cheering, mounted the lift. They shd in turn into the command cabin through chutes in the orbital module.

It was night by the time the count concluded at 21:10 China time. The engines of the CZ-2F gushed yellow and orange flame with black smoke and began to rise in the night sky. It could be seen ascending into a typical ice-clear Jiuquan night, bending over in its climb, making the distinctive “cross of Korolev” shape of clustered burning engines. In a few minutes, they were in orbit of 200-337 km, 42.4°, raised on the fifth orbit to 330-337 km. Over Honolulu, amateur American trackers picked up signals on 2,224 MHz. Shenzhou 7 benefitted from the Space Environment Prediction Centre, set up in 1998, which updated its forecast radiation levels every 8 hr and confirmed that it was safe to go ahead with the space walk. Chinese doctors had meantime developed a medicine to combat space sickness – a combination of difenidol, theotydramin, promethazine, and cofferine, taken both before launch and before the space walk. Combining American and Russian experience with traditional Chinese medicines, a new pill was introduced to combat fatigue and improve performance during spaceflight, called the taikong yangxin.

The long-awaited space walk took place on 27th September, the third day of flight, on the 29th orbit. It had been deliberately delayed to then so as to enable any symptoms of early-mission pace sickness to pass. Pre-breathing and anti-decom­pression precautions were carried out for the Feitian. The whole event was relayed live on Chinese television and its worldwide feed, beginning when Shenzhou 7 was passing over Malindi. There was a brief gap in signal as it left Malindi and was picked up by Tian Lian 1, which was to cover the crucial period of the space walk. Viewers could see the hatch being opened by the two yuhangyuan from within the orbital module. Later, the unfolding events would be followed on the outside by a backward-facing camera mounted on the front of the orbital module.

Zhai Zhigang and Liu Buoming had difficulty opening the hatch. Even though the cabin had depressurized, there was still sufficient air outgassing from items in the cabin to apply pressure on the hatch – identical to difficulties experienced by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldin when they tried to open their lunar module hatch for their walk on the Moon. Zhai Zhigang was the first to emerge in his Feitian suit and could be seen coming out of the hatchway with the length of Shenzhou in the foreground and the blue Earth in the background. With his body now well out of the

Shenzhou 7 seen in orbit from the BX-1 micro-satellite after the space walk. Courtesy:


hatch, he waved to all the viewers, greeting the Chinese people and all other viewers. Grabbing the handrail, he attached two tethers, one of which must be connected at a time. He then moved entirely out of Shenzhou, swam vertically, and, holding a small Chinese flag, waved it aloft to the world.

In the meantime, Liu Buoming emerged from the orbital module in his Russian – made Orlan suit. He stood by while Zhai Zhigang retrieved a small panel of experimental samples and handed it back to him inside. The purpose of the experimental package was to test 80 individual items of 11 types of solid lubricants and polymers and compare them with a ground sample: once back on the ground, the erosive nature of the space environment was apparent. After 14 min outside, Zhai Zhigang came back in and closed the hatch. Viewers watched the two yuhangyuan waiting in the orbital module for re-pressurization. Although it was a short space walk, this was very much in line with the duration of the Leonov and White space walks 40 years earlier. Depressurization time was 45 min, of which hatch open time was 22 min. Later, China intended to develop a manned maneuvering unit so that an astronaut could use its engines to move freely up to some distance away, without a tether. Several hours later, the subsatellite was released from the front of the orbital module. Later, the orbital module began its period of independent flight, making six changes of path, testing engines that would later be used on the Tiangong orbital station.

The following morning, the three yuhangyuan prepared to return to the Earth. The landing was again carried live on Chinese television. Retro-fire took place at 09:50 UT and, at 10:25, a dramatic image of the single parachute filled the screen, cameras following the cabin down all the way to touchdown at 10:36, the actual landing taking place behind a low hill. Cameras followed jeeps as they fanned out across the Mongolian grasslands and helicopters quickly touched down beside the cabin. Shenzhou had landed on its side and the hatch was soon open. In mission control, where Prime Minister Wen Jiabao was the principal visitor, there was relief and joy.

The crew was required to remain in the cabin for a half-hour for acclimatization so, in the meantime, water bottles were passed inside. Liu Buoming was first to emerge, followed by Zhai Zhigang and then Jing Haipeng. They were quickly seated in director’s chairs before being given flowers and making thank-you speeches. Later, they were brought away for a hero’s welcome in a motorcade with garlands of flowers. Mission time was 68 hr 28 min. With a full crew on a short mission, there was little scope for experiments on Shenzhou 7, but, echoing experiments carried out by the Soviet Union on Korabl Sputnik 2 in August 1960, Shenzhou 7 carried muscle cells to study the effects of spaceflight, finding that they became quite degraded over the short period of the mission. After the mission, the three yuhangyuan went on tour around the country. Shenzhou, with a Feitian suit and a Sokol suit, Zhai Zhigang’s gloves and flag, the recovered external samples, as well as a working model of Banxing were exhibited in the science museum in Hong Kong.

The 40-kg subsatellite provided quite a postscript for the mission. Called Banxing (“companion satellite”), built in Shanghai, it had its own thrusters and propulsion system for station-keeping and maneuvering. It appears to have been an initiative of the Academy of Sciences, like the Chuangxin micro-satellites. The satellite was developed by the Shanghai Satellite Engineering Centre with Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics. It had, for the first time in China, a gallium arsenide solar array powering a lithium ion battery. Lead designer was Zhu Zhencai. The propulsion system used liquid ammonia vaporization. Following its spring ejection, its original orbit was the same as Shenzhou at the time, at 329-338 km, but, over the next week, it maneuvered first around Shenzhou and, later, its orbital module, maintaining a distance of 4-8 km for 25 orbits, practicing station-keeping with the orbital module. It operated within an ellipsoid of between 3,800 m and 7,600 m (figures of 540 m-20 km were also given), adjusting it six times, concluding its mission in January 2009. There were reports that it then moved away to a distance of 470 km, only to return to the orbital module. There was nothing new about such distance-and-chase maneuvers – they had been done by the USSR in the 1980s with the Czechoslovakian MAGION subsatellites – but it was a first for China. The subsatellite made a total of 13 maneuvers during its 100-day primary mission.

Banxing had two cameras, one wide-view and one narrow-view. Over 1,000 images were sent back by its two cameras, although only a small number – albeit excellent ones – were published. In January 2009, engineers reported that they were still in contact with the small spacecraft, which still had some fuel left. According to the subsequent mission report, Banxing demonstrated “inspection and proximity

alone-track relative posiiion km

The spiraling ellipses of the BX-1 flight pattern. Courtesy: COSPAR China.

operations” and tested new technologies such as gallium arsenide solar cells, lithium batteries, a micro-ammonia thruster, micro-attitude tracking controller, cameras with double-focusing systems, and a micro-USB responsor [13].

Banxing had a second postscript. American analyst Richard Fisher used data made available by the US Strategic Command to show that, 4 hr after its launch, Banxing flew to 45 km to the right of and below the ISS. Although the satellite was

released when the two were 500 km apart, at 15:07 UT, Banxing would have passed close to the ISS while they were overflying the sea between Australia and New Zealand. According to Fisher, the close pass arose either because the micro-satellite was out of control at the time, which was dangerously irresponsible, or there was a surreptitious maneuver to test on-orbit interceptions [14]. Banxing burned up on 29th October 2009, while the orbital module lasted longer, to 4th January 2010.


While awaiting the Long March 5, many of the most interesting developments in world rocketry have been at the other, small end of the market. There was a huge growth in the requirement for small payloads in low Earth orbit. Several countries developed new small launchers, like the European Vega, while, in the United States, the Orbital Sciences Corporation developed Pegasus, a small rocket lifted to altitude by a Lockheed Tristar airplane, from whence it was dropped, ignited, and flew on to orbit.

In the late 1990s, China redeveloped the old Long March 1 rocket, used only for its first two satellite missions, as a new small satellite launcher. After a suborbital test flight in November 1997, it sought foreign customers but fell foul of the American embargo. China then tried another approach. Following the Russian experience of converting solid-fuel missiles into launchers (the Topol), China then developed a small four-stage solid-fuelled truck-based launcher, called Kaitouzhe (“Pioneer” in English) or KT-1. The aim was to place 40-100-kg payloads into 300-km-high polar orbit from a mobile launcher. Compared to the liquid-fuel rocket fleet, this was a small launcher, only 14 m tall and weighing only 20 tonnes. Its nearest comparator was the Russian START launcher, briefly used for small payloads in the early 2000s, based on the SS-20 missile called, coincidentally, Pioner.

Models of Kaitouzhe went on display at the Shenzhen 4th International High and New Technology Achievements Fair in October 2002. There were unconfirmed reports that an attempt was made to launch Kaitouzhe 1 on 15th September 2002, but it failed because of a guidance fault. A second launching took place from Taiyuan on 16th September 2003, which appears to have suffered a fourth-stage failure. Stamps were even issued in Xian to mark its maiden flight in August 2005, but it never happened. The Kaitouzhe then disappeared from view, unexpectedly reappearing at the Zhuhai air show in 2009. Not only that, but a longer version was modeled – the KT-1A, with a mass of 30 tonnes and able to put 200 kg into 700 km orbit, as well as one with two strap-ons, the KT-1B, mass 65 tonnes, able to put 500 kg into the same orbit. Later, they acquired the name of the Long March 11 (CZ-11). Regardless of its future, the Asian Joint Conference on Propulsion and Power, held in Xian in March 2012, heard of initial Chinese preparations for a new generation of solid-fuel launchers, using the segmented design typical of the American Space Shuttle.

The program

This chapter looks at how the current space program was constructed – its organization, institutes, architecture, infrastructure, ground facilities, cosmodromes, rockets, and rocket engines – starting with the people who made it all possible: the designers and their institutes.


The leader of the Chinese space program was, as we have seen, in its early years Tsien Hsue Shen. The Chinese program followed a model of development that had similarities to the Soviet one, based on the concept of design institutes and chief designers (glavnykonstruktor, in Russian). Whether the system was consciously imitative or arose from a common political inspiration is not known. Either way, in the Chinese system, a number of chief designers emerged, as did various institutes and design bureaus, though there was a much more remote connection between designers and individual bureaus. As was the case in the Soviet Union (1946), an original group of chief designers was formed in China (1956), with key scientists assigned to projects and specialisms (e. g. engines, computers, radio systems, propellants). To the present, individual chief designers are associated with key projects, such as Qi Faren (Shenzhou). The original designers have since retired, although, in keeping with the Chinese tradition of longevity, many have lived and still live to old age and retain a lively interest in their former occupation. While Tsien Hsue Shen will always remain the great designer, in recent years, China has come to recognize other designers and scientists who have made big contributions to the Chinese space program; 2009, for example, saw the presentation of state awards to mathematician Gu Chaohao, who calculated the trajectories for the early space missions and Zhukovsky graduate spacecraft designer Sun Jiadong.

A second imitative feature of the Chinese space program was that it was carried out by sonorous-sounding institutes that concealed their true identity (the Soviet program was directed by the “ministry of medium machine-building”). There was no equivalent of NASA in the early years: the space program was run by the Fifth Academy from 1956 and by the Seventh Ministry from 1964. The Fifth Academy

B. Harvey, China in Space: The Great Leap Forward, Springer Praxis Books,

DOI 10.1007/978-l-4614-5043-6_3, © Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013 was formed by the drafting in of approximately 1,000 engineers and military officers, most of whom knew nothing about spaceflight but who quickly made up for it by hard study, but now the space program can call on skilled scientists and administrators from the universities. Not until 10th June 1993, when the Chinese National Space Administration (CNSA) was formed, did the Chinese space program have a visible governmental face. Organizationally, it was part of the structure of the State Commission for Science, Technology and the National Defence (COSTIND).

The body responsible for space policy and oversight body is the Space Leading Group of the State Council (formed in its current shape in 1991), which comprises senior governmental officials (the prime minister; the chairman of COSTIND; the vice-chairman of the State Committee for Science and Technology; the minister of the aerospace industry; the vice-minister of foreign affairs; and the vice-chairman of the state committee for central planning) which reports to the president. The CNSA reports to the Space Leading Group, as does the Central Military Commission, which manages the cosmodromes and tracking system, and the Human Spaceflight Office, which oversees the manned program [1].

Underneath the CNSA are the institutes or academies, so-called because they operate under the China Academy of Sciences. As is the case in the Soviet Union and parts of Europe, most scientific and engineering development takes place in scientific institutes, rather than in universities, as is the case in Britain and the United States. These are the main academies:

1. Chinese Academy of Launch Technology (CALT), in Nan Yuan, Beijing;

2. Chinese Academy of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering (CCF), in Beijing;

3. Chinese Electro-mechanic Academy (CHETA), in Haiying;

4. Chinese Academy for Solid Rocket Motors (ARMT), in Xian;

5. Chinese Academy of Space Technology (CAST), in Beijing;

8. Shanghai Academy for Spaceflight Technology (SAST), in Shanghai;

9. Chinese Academy for Space Electronics Technology (CASET), in Beijing;

10. Chinese Academy of Aerospace Navigation Technology;

11. Academy of Aerospace Liquid Propulsion Technology (AALPT).

The most eminent are CALT, CAST, and SAST. The Chinese Academy of Launcher Technology (CALT), originally called the Beijing Wan Yuan Industry Corporation (1957), is located in Nan Yuan, 50 km south of Beijing, and was once, like equivalent Soviet facilities, secret and closed to visitors. It has responsibility for the design, construction, completion, and delivery of the Long March launchers and has six factories in Beijing and Shanghai. CALT has its own railway termini: rockets are assembled horizontally then transported by rail to the appropriate launch site. CALT is also responsible for testing materials, parts, and components, and has its own static halls, vibration test towers, and engine test stands.

The China Academy of Space Technology (CAST) (1968) is the primary body that designs and manufactures scientific and applications satellites. Its core is the Beijing Satellite Manufacturing Plant in Beijing, formerly the Science Instruments Plant of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Like the old Soviet facilities, there are gleaming interiors inside a shell of unattractive exteriors and the plant includes a museum of backup and unflown satellites. New spacecraft integration hangars, test facilities, and laboratories were built in the 1990s on a fresh 100-ha site in Tangjialing, north-west Beijing. A 7,000-m2 lunar section was opened in late 2009. The total CAST workforce was given in 2003 as 110,000 of which 41,000 were of technical grade [2]. CAST has a substantial infrastructure, the main elements of which are:

• Beijing Centre for Space Technology Development and Testing, with integration hall, electro-magnetic compatibility laboratory, mechanical environmental laboratory, KM6 space environment simulation laboratory, mass properties test laboratory, compact radio test field, acoustic laboratory, and electron welding systems;

• National Centre of Engineering Research for Small Satellites and Applica­tions, sub-divided into design, test, and integration centers;

• Dong Fang Hong Satellite Co.;

• Integrated Centre for Recovery and Landing Research;

• Centre for Optical Remote Sensing Engineering;

• Centre of Specialized Technologies;

• Centre for Control and Propulsion Systems Design;

• Satellite Manufacturing Factory;

• Institute of Space Scientific and Technological Information;

• Institute of Space Machinery and Electricity;

• Beijing Institute of Control Engineering;

• Beijing Institute of Metrology and Test Technology; and

• Beijing Institute of Satellite Information Engineering.

As was the case with the Soviet design bureaus, it has branches outside Beijing such as:

• Xian Industrial Park, for the development of communications systems, microwave payloads, and applications, including Xian Institute of Radio Technology (XIRT);

• Tianjin Industrial Base;

• Yantai Industrial Base for the development of satellite electronics;

• Lanzhou Industrial Base, for the development of cryogenics and tanking;

• Lanzhou Institute of Space Technical Physics;

• Shantou Institute of Electronic Technology;

• Shanxi Institute of Space Mechanical and Electrical Equipment; and

• Shandong Institute of Space Electronic Technology.

To complicate the story, institutes have been renamed and transferred from one academy to another. XIRT, for example, which played a lead role in satellite electronics, was an independent academy when formed in 1956, but was transferred to CAST in 1968.

After CAST, the largest bureau is the Shanghai Academy of Space Technology (SAST), sometimes loosely referred to as “the Shanghai bureau”, set up 1961 by

Mao Zedong in Minhang, Shanghai, China’s leading industrial base, where an old tobacco hall was requisitioned. It was assigned major projects from the 1970s, such as the Feng Bao launcher and, since then, key tasks of the space program such as the Long March 2D and 4 rockets and important parts of Shenzhou (e. g. propulsion module, electrical systems, command and communications, and the main engine) and there is a full-scale mockup of Shenzhou on display there. Rockets are not the only product of the SAST, which has 10 commercial companies and has branched out into defense equipment, cars, office equipment, machinery, electrical products, and even property management. There was a substantial, 80-ha expansion of its Minhang facility (also called Minxing) from 2005 as a “Space Industrial Park”, with a large part dedicated to the manned spaceflight program. Also located in Shanghai is the Shanghai Institute for Satellite Engineering (Hauyin), which first built the Ji Shu Shiyan Weixing (JSSW) series of satellites (Chapter 2) and then the Feng Yun weather satellites (Chapter 6), and is well endowed with high-quality technical facilities such as vacuum chambers and a centrifuge. Also located there are the State Meteorology Administration and the Shanghai Institute for Technical Physics (established in 1958).

Dealing with the other academies, ARMT (1962) in Xian makes solid-rocket motors, kick stages, apogee engines, retrorockets for the Fanhui Shi Weixing (FSW) recoverable cabins and other small rockets, and the escape tower for Shenzhou. The tenth academy, the Chinese Academy of Aerospace Navigation Technology (2001), was formed to bring together a dispersed and uncoordinated range of small companies and institutes involved in the design and production of inertial instruments, optoelectronic products, electrical and electronic components, precision instruments, and computer hardware and software in navigation and guidance systems.

Liquid-fuel rocket engines were originally made in what was originally called the “067 base” in Mount Qinling in Shaanxi (though 1970 is given as its date of formation). Broadly speaking, its role corresponded to that of the Gas Dynamics Laboratory, now Energomash in the Russian space program. The company diversified in recent years in this case into such areas as fire-fighting, environmental protection, electronics, machinery, and electronics. A subsidiary, the Shaanxi Space Dynamics High Technology Co., was set up to apply rocket engine technology across a broad range of economic sectors. The various liquid-propulsion laboratories, 067 base, the Beijing Aerospace Propulsion Institute, the Beijing Institute of Aerospace Testing Technology, and the Shanghai Institute of Space Propulsion were brought into a new academy in 2009 in Xian: the Academy of Aerospace Liquid Propulsion Technology (AALPT), with 11,400 staff.

These are the main academies. In addition, there are many smaller institutes and centers, most of which operate under the broad aegis of the China Academy of Sciences, some emerging only in recent years. Examples are:

• Centre for Earth Observation (CEODE);

• National Astronomical Observatories;

• National Satellite Meteorology Centre;

• China Resources Satellite Application Centre (CRESDA, 1991);

• Satellite Oceanic Application Centre;

• National Space Science Centre (NSSC); and

• Lanzhou Space Research Institute.

One of the newest (2011) is the National Space Science Centre (NSSC), to take responsibility for planning space science, appointing Ji Wu as its first director – a move designed to both prioritize space science and bring coherent planning to the field. The NSSC took over the former Centre for Space Science and Applied Research (CSSR), in turn constituted from Zhao Jiuzhang’s Institute of Applied Geophysics (1958) which later became the Institute of Space Physics, with the Centre for Space Science and Technology (1978), and it has 507 staff. It has responsibility for research, design, assembly, coordination, and scientific support, and includes post-doctoral students. CSSR holds the China Space Science Data Centre and is the home of the China committee of COSPAR. It is responsible for Miyun ground receiving station, Hainan ionospheric observatory, the Beijing Cosmic Ray Observatory, the Beijing super neutron monitor, the sounding rocket base in Hainan, and the space plasma environment test laboratory. In 2011, it was allocated a budget of ¥300m (€38m), but with a view to this growing to ¥700m. Its staff complement was set at 450, including 50 scientists.

In advance of manned spaceflight, an Institute for Aviation & Space Medicine (many variations of this name appear) was established in Beijing (1968), led by China’s great expert in aviation and space medicine, Cai Qiao (1897-1990). From Jieyang in Gungdong, he studied psychology and then medicine in California and Chicago, subsequently in London and Frankfurt, returning to China after the revolution, becoming the author of six major books and over 100 papers, his main text being the ABC of Aviation Medicine. The institute became responsible for the development of spacesuits, underwater tanks to test space walking, and centrifuges to prepare astronauts for high gravitational forces on ascent and descent. The Institute for Aviation and Space Medicine built a 12-m, computer-controlled centrifuge able to reach a maximum acceleration of 25 G, while the Shanghai Research Institute of Satellite Engineering built a 15-m-long centrifuge, the biggest in Asia, which can achieve 17 G. Adjacent facilities work on water recycling, closed Ufe-support systems, growing food in space, and bed-rest research.

As was the case in Russia, production may be carried out in-house or contracted to specialized external production institutes or factories (e. g. Tung Fang Scientific Instrument Plant), but China also had an intermediate organizational type: the in­house specialized company, an example being the Dong Fang Hong Satellite Co., a medium-sized company of 450 staff, part of CAST. Shanghai had a concentration of production facilities, such as the Shanghai Electronic Equipment Factory (electro­nics); Xinyue Mechanical Electronics Plant (gimbaling systems and precision instruments); and the Scientific Instrument Factory (sensors).

In 2009, there was reorganization around industrial parks, bringing together a diverse range of companies derived from the different institutes. The main parks developed were in Shenzhen, Xian, Shanghai, Tianjin, and Hainan. Several CAST

The program

Ciao Qiao, father of Chinese space medicine.

facilities were consolidated in Xian, such as the AALPT, the Institute of Space Physics, and the North West Institute for Electronics. The main anchor companies in Shenzhen Park were Shenzhen Aerospace Spacesat Company and Shenzhen Aerospace Science & Technology, starting with a ¥160m (€20m) facility of 250,000 m2.

The principal communications satellite companies are Asiasat, Sinosat, and Chinasatcom, which includes APT (Asia Pacific Telecommunications Co.) Satellite of Hong Kong (Apstar), the last two being subsidiaries of CAST (they are described in detail in Chapter 5). The main computer companies are Beijing Shenzhou Aerospace Software Co., China Aerospace Times Electronics Corp., China Spacesat Co., and China Aerospace Engineering Consultation Centre.

Traditionally, satellites were constructed in-house or in subsidiary companies, but they were joined by university-based companies in the 1990s. Tsinghua Satellite Technology Company specialized in micro-satellites and space imaging. Sounding like a typical Western university-commercial company, it was a joint enterprise of China Space Machinery and Electrical Equipment Group, Tsinghua University Enterprise Group, and Tsinghua Tongfang Co. Located in Zhongguancun Science & Technology Park, Tsinghua Satellite Technology Company quickly found a Western partner to work with – the university-based Surrey Satellite Technologies Limited (SSTL), which operates on a broadly similar basis. Its aim is to develop China’s autonomous micro-satellite research capability in a short period of time and build high-performance, low-cost space applications satellites, especially in such areas as weather observations, disaster prevention, environmental monitoring, and carto­graphy.

On top of these, the China Aerospace Corporation (CASC) (1989) has overall authority for the main industrial groups concerned with spaceflight, notably the Great Wall Industry Corporation (1984), its promotional agency at home and abroad. The Great Wall is a multi-product promotional agency, its current portfolio including, as well as space rockets, bicycles, beer, safes, home-made ice-cream machines, and electric fans. It leads the drive to promote Chinese launchers and other space products, at one stage having offices in California, Washington, DC, and Munich, Germany.

Two universities are now dedicated to spaceflight – the only country in the world with such a distinction, both called universities of aeronautics and astronautics: Nanjing and Beijing. The latter has 23,000 students and is one of the main research centers for both theory and the practical development of new projects (e. g. it has an altitude chamber in which spacesuits are tested). Prospective astronauts study there. For amateurs, there is the Chinese Society of Astronautics (CSA), which attempts to bring together engineers, scientists, amateurs, and enthusiasts for spaceflight. It is the body affiliated to the International Astronautical Federation, although, in the best traditions of science and politics, there is a rival Chinese Society of Aeronautics and Astronautics. In 1992, China joined the international committee on space research, COSPAR, originally set up after the International Geophysical Year to bring together the scientists of the USSR, United States, and Europe in the post­Sputnik period. China has a national committee for COSPAR, which furnishes triennial reports on its space science activities to COSPAR headquarters in Paris.


The Chinese space program now has an extensive infrastructure, comprising three launch centers and a fourth in construction, with ground facihties for manufacturing and testing; a worldwide land, sea, and space-based tracking system; a fleet of operational medium-lift launchers, about to be replaced by a new generation of light to heavy rockets; and a well-established institutional architecture. Its rockets have achieved high records of reliability. Recent promotional brochures of the program illustrate the gleaming, new, soaring buildings of light steel and glass, the new institutes and facilities conveying freshness, modernization, and a sense of purpose. The contrast with the old Chinese space program could not be greater. When the 067 base was set up, now the new Academy of Liquid Propulsion Technology, security imperatives were such that it must be located far inland in mountains. The country’s best rocket engine engineers were assigned to live in a bamboo village indistinguishable from any other and cooked by all accounts meager meals using locally collected firewood, foraging further afield for rice, meat, and cooking oil.


[1] The current organization is described in Sourbes-Verger, I. Du reve a la realite. Presentation, Conference 3AF, 29 September 2009.

[2] Bai, Jingwu; Li, Feng. Footprints of China’s Launch Vehicles and Their Further Evolution. Presentation to 54th IAC, Bremen, 2003; United States Congress. Report of the US China Economic and Security Review Commission. US Government Printing Office, Washington, DC (2011).

[3] Guo Huadong; Ma Jianwen. Earth Observation Technologies for Sustainable Development. China Journal of Space Science, 30 (5) (2010).

[4] Grahn, S. JLC Town: An Interpretation of the Space Image. Available online at www. svengrahn. pp. se; Grahn, S. Jiuquan. Presentation to the British Interplane­tary Society, June 2006.

[5] Oberg, J. China’s Space Effort Undergoing a Sea Change: Beijing Makes Plans for

New Rockets, Island Spaceport, Barge Transport. Posting on www. jamesoberg. com.

[6] Chen, Shu-Peng. Remote Sensing and Its Application. In: Hu, Wen-Rui (ed.), Space Science in China. Gordon & Breach, Amsteldijk (1997).

[7] Borrowman, G. The Chinese/Soviet Contribution to the North Korean Launch Capability. Paper presented at the British Interplanetary Society, 7 June 2008.


The battle over ITAR played to a polarized world, but international communica­tions and the companies operating them lived in a world in which international boundaries became ever more blurred. The ownership of Chinese communications companies was complicated, some having been started in Hong Kong before the handover, others having substantial Western investment and being publicly traded. Although most flew Chinese satellites on Chinese rockets, not all did and some flew Western satellites on Chinese launchers and sometimes did not even use Chinese rockets.

The three main companies were Asiasat, Sinosat, and Chinasatcom (which includes Apstar). Asiasat was formed in 1988 in Hong Kong when it was a British colony and was a China-Hong Kong-British company. As its title suggests, it aims to provide communications for the Asian region. Although its first satellite, Asiasat 1, was launched on the Long March, it later turned to Russian and Western suppliers. Asiasat 3S launched on a Russian Proton on 21st March 1999, followed by Asiasat 4, a Hughes 601 on an American Atlas IIIB on 11th April 2003, and Asiasat 5, a Loral 1300 on a Russian Proton on 12th August 2009. Asiasat 7, also a Loral 1300, flew on a Russian Proton on 26th November 2011. Carrying 28 C-band and 17 Ku-band transponders for Asia and the Middle East, it reached 105.5°E, where it replaced Asiasat 3S. In 2012, Asiasat ordered Asiasat 6, 8, and 9, more Loral 1300s, choosing the Proton, but with reports of an approach to the American SpaceX for its new commercial Falcon 9 rocket.

Sinosat is China’s main domestic operator, established in 1994 in Beijing, with German funding. It has its own ground control center in northern Beijing. Its first launch was Sinosat 1 in July 1998 (Chinese series name Xinnuo), its main function being TV, radio, and distance learning to the villages from 110.5°E, where it operated successfully until being moved off station in April 2012. Despite its name, Sinosat 1 was a Western Spacebus 3000 and flew before the Cox regime had set in. Since then, Sinosat turned to domestic satellites, Sinosat 2 being the first Dong Fang Hong 4 series, Sinosat 3 being one of the older DFH-3s, while DFH-4 orders have been placed for Sinosat 4, 5, 6, and 7.

Chinasatcom (Chinasat for short) is part of the China Aerospace Corporation (CASC) and is effectively a government company conglomerate. Chinasat took over APT (brand name Apstar) and subsequently Sinosat, a subsidiary with its own brand, and, in 2007, all were brought together under a holding company called the Orient Telecommunications Satellite Co. Ltd. Chinasat is a big communications supplier: it had 260 TV and 230 radio channels, as well as four Earth stations: Beijing, Shahe, Tai Po (Hong Kong New Territories), and Dujiangyan in Chengdu.

Its direct broadcast satellites have been given the brand of ChinaDBSat, although, thankfully, a separate designator is not used for them. It has four satelhtes on order: Chinasat 9A (92.2°E), Chinasat 11 (2013), Chinasat 13 (2014), and a backup for Thales-built Apstar 7, which was launched to 76.5°E in March 2012 (Apstar 7B). China’s commercial satellite launches are summarized in Table 5.5.

Table 5.5. Commercial communications satellites.




Modeljother names

Asiasat 1

7 Apr 1990


Hughes 376


Optus dummy

16 Jul 1990


Pakistan test satellite

Optus B-l

13 Aug 1992


Hughes 601

Optus B-2

21 Dec 1992


Hughes 601, broke up at 70 sec

Apstar 1

21 Jul 1994


Hughes 376

Optus B-3

27 Aug 1994


Hughes 601

Apstar 2

25 Jan 1995


Hughes 601, exploded at 51 sec

Asiasat 2

28 Nov 1995




28 Dec 1995



Intelsat 708

14 Feb 1996


Loral 1300, exploded at 2 sec

Apstar 1A

4 Jul 1996


Hughes 376

Zhongxing 7

18 Aug 1996


Hughes 376/Chinasat 7

Zhongxing 6B

11 May 1997


DFH-3/Chinasat 8

Agila 2

20 Aug 1997


Loral 1300

Apstar 2R

16 Oct 1997


Loral 1300

Zhongwei 1

30 May 1998


A2100A/Chinastar 1/ex Chinasat 5A

Sinosat 1

18 July 1998


SB-3000/Xinnuo 1/Chinasat 5В/ Chinsasat 5B

Apstar 6

12 Apr 2005


Spacebus 4000

Sinosat 3

31 May 2007


DFH-3/Xinnuo 3/Zhongxing 5С/ Eutelsat ЗА

Zhongxing 6B

5 July 2007


Spacebus 4000/Chinasat 6B2

Zhongxing 9

9 June 2008


Spacebus 4000/Chinasat 9

Palapa D

31 Aug 2009


Spacebus 4000, third-stage fail but arrived

Eutelsat W3C

7 Oct 2011


Spacebus 4000C3

Apstar 7

31 Mar 2012


Spacebus 4000 (replaces Apstar 2R)


Despite this demonstrated ability to fly a scientific mission, there was a gap in the series of almost 13 years (Shi Jian 3 was a canceled Earth resources satellite). Shi Jian 4 was flown on the first flight of the Long March ЗА launcher on 8th February 1994 and was the second satellite to benefit from project 863. Shi Jian 4 was a 410-kg drum, 1.6 m in diameter, 2.18 m high, with 11,000 2 x 2-cm solar cells. Its primary purpose was to study the spatial and spectral distribution of the Earth’s charged particle environment, but an important objective was to test its damaging effect on spacecraft instrumentation. There were six scientific instruments of 20 kg, as shown in Table 7.2.

Table 7.2. Shi Jian 4 instruments.

Semi-conductor high-energetic electrons detector

Semi-conductor high-energetic proton and heavy-ion detector

Electrostatic analyzer

Electric potential meter

Static single events upset monitor

The Long March also carried into orbit an unspecified 1,600-kg payload called Kuafu, probably a technology demonstrator (in Chinese mythology, Kuafu chased the Sun), this name being revived recently for a new mission. Shi Jian 4 entered an orbit of 209-36,118 km, 28.5°, period 10.7 hr, calculated to bring it through the charged particles of the Van Allen radiation belts four times a day. Shi Jian 4 was designed to last for six months, before succumbing to the intense radiation of the belts. There were a number of problems with the mission: the power supply gave only 2 V instead of the 5 V for which it was designed and some of the instruments malfunctioned, but it lasted more than the half-year planned.

Shi Jian 4 made the first Chinese wide-range distribution of electrons, ions, and high-energy particles in the 0.1-40-keV range, followed solar particle radiation that did not enter the Earth’s magnetic field, measured the density of high-temperature plasma, detected high-energy charged particles in the radiation belts, and made a cross-section of the radiation belt. A map was made of proton fluxes and trapped electron fluxes and measured against altitude. Chinese scientists found that the in – and-out flow of the field-aligned current was very complex and hard to distinguish.

Dealing with the damage done by radiation to spacecraft systems, it tested a

Shi Jian 4, an important radiation mission. Courtesy: COSPAR China.








0 50 100 150 200 2501 X|0;)

Altitude /Vm

5000 Altitude km

Shi Jian 4: Trapped protons. Courtesy: COSPAR China.

Shi Jian 4: Trapped electrons. Courtesy: COSPAR China.

system to re-start micro-circuits that had been knocked out by radiation. This happened when systems were hit by high-temperature plasmas up to -2,000 V, with 27 such episodes encountered. At 1,000 km out, Shi Jian recorded multiple large negative potential charging events. Shi Jian recorded 120 single-event upsets in the first 25 days, apparently caused by cosmic rays impacting on the inner radiation belt, averaging out at 3.4 a day in the end. At the end of the mission, the old Handbook of the Low Orbit Space Environment was updated, funded by project 863 [1].

Five years later, in May 1999, Shi Jian 5 was launched, riding piggyback with the meteorological satellite, Feng Yun 1-3 (Chapter 6). Weighing 298 kg, it marked the first operational use of the CAST968 bus made by the Shanghai Academy of Space Technology with the China Electronics Technology Corporation. Instead of the drum shape, it was a box measuring 1.1 x 1.2 x 1.04 m with two solar panels. Its orbit was out to 865 km, 102 min. Its purpose was similar: to study the terrestrial magnetosphere and single-upset events that damaged satellites in orbit. Experiments comprised a suite of cosmic ray detection instruments: a semi-conductor proton and heavy ions detector, a static electrical analyzer, an electrical potentiometer, a static single-event monitor, and a dynamic single-event monitor, with eight measuring points. The project was developed with Brazilian cooperation, but its precise nature is uncertain.

Shi Jian 5 was designed for a short lifetime of 90 days – an approach typical of early Soviet satellites – and the end-of-mission announcement came in August. It duly measured single-event upsets and the effect of the dosage of highly charged particles on the spacecraft. Many years later, it was learned that Shi Jian 5 carried China’s first experiments in fluid physics, to test the convection of bubbles in paraffin and the effects of multilayered thermo-capillary convection on crystalline growth and quality, the outcomes transmitted in real time. This was matched by

Shi Jian 5, a successor mission with a different design and more objectives.

experiments developed on Mir at the same time (1999) and followed by more on Shenzhou 4 (2002), FSW 3-5 (2005), and six experiments on Shi Jian 8 (2006). It also tested a solid-state recorder and high-speed s-band transmission [2].