Category China in Space


There are several approaches to analyzing the rhythm and characteristics of the Chinese space program itself. The following are the basic statistics of the Chinese space program. By the end of 2011, China had made 154 launches and these are listed in Table 10.3 (the annex covers the 164 launches to end in June 2012). Over the period 1970-2010, this gives an average of over three per year, as may be seen from Table 10.3.

Table 10.3. Annual Chinese launches, 1970-2011.

Table 10.4. Annual launches by leading space nations, 2007-11.

The pace of the early Chinese space program was quite peristaltic, with some years in which there were no launches at all – almost repeated in 2001, when there was only one. Not until the late 1990s did the Chinese establish a rhythm of five or six launches a year, with China breaking into double figures in the late 2000s, 2011 clearly evident as the breakthrough year in which it overtook the United States (Table 10.4). This is clearly the upward pace of an expanding, challenging program.

The categories of spacecraft launched and the emphasis of the program will already be evident from the previous chapters (e. g. applications, space science, manned, etc.). These statistics, in Table 10.5, gave a more detailed picture of satellite types. By the end of June 2012, China had launched 202 satellites, in the descending order shown.

One must be careful with these figures, for micro-satellites and piggybacks may constitute a larger number than their importance suggests. By contrast, the low percentages of some other programs (e. g. weather, navigation) may understate their importance to the program as a whole. Nevertheless, the emphasis on communica­tions (25%) is apparent, for such satellites comprise the largest single element of the program, at over a quarter, combining domestic communications and international commercial launches. At an earlier stage of the program, it was possible to divide










FSW recoverable3



Earth resources/oceanographic4



Navigation (Beidou)



Micro-satellites, piggyback5



Meteorological (Feng Yun)



Scientific and lunar6



Manned (Shenzhou, Tiangong)




Satellites to orbit by 30th June 2012. Percentages rounded for convenience.


1 Domestic, international, and commercial; Tian Lian relay satellites.

2 JSSW; Yaogan; Shi Jian; Shi Jian 6 series, 11 series and 12; Feng Huo; Shentong.

3 FSW series and Shi Jian S.

4 Haiyang; Huanjing; CBERS; Tansuo; Tianhui.

5 KF-1; SAC; Freja; Chuangxin; Banxing; Naxing; MEMS; Xi Wang; Yaogan 9; Pixing; Tianxun; Tiantuo.

6 Shi Jian 1, 2 series, 4, 5, 7; Chang e; Qi Qi; Tan Ce. Dong Fang Hong included here for convenience.

these between Chinese government and foreign, but, as Chapter 5’s discussion of satellite ownership showed, this distinction has become ever more difficult to make. The next largest category is military (18%), which includes the early JSSW elint series, Earth observation missions (Yaogan, Zi Yuan, Feng Huo, Shentong), and the numerous Shi Jian 6 and 11 and Shi Jian 12 demonstrator, even though their precise purpose is uncertain. Third comes the recoverable satellite program (11%), which would have been a much more dominant part of the program had these calculations been made in the 1990s, but it has since fallen in significance. The proportions of the remaining categories are remarkably similar: micro-satellites, scientific, navigation, meteorological, and Earth resources (in the range 7-9%). The manned part of the program, although the most visible and the most heavily invested in, is actually the smallest proportion of the total (5%). Compared to earlier years, we are left with the impression of a program that is now much more broadly based.

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The crowd had been waiting for some time. Hundreds had gathered beside the concrete apron outside the suiting and crew-preparation area. Thirty or forty women were dressed in the bright blues and reds of traditional Chinese dress. They had big red and yellow tom-toms all ready, while the other well-wishers had brought flowers. It was a youthful population, but then most of those who work in the Chinese space program are in their twenties. To help their wait, a band played some lively military tunes. An American astronaut, Leroy Chiao, who had flown into space from both Cape Canaveral and Russia’s Baikonour, once compared the sterile, clinical, crowdless atmosphere of an American launch with the riotous joy of departing from Baikonour. Well, China’s Jiuquan is closer to the Russian tradition.

The doors opened and out stepped into the bright sunshine three astronauts – “yuhangyuan” in Chinese – who were about to embark on China’s fourth, most ambitious manned space mission. Their target was to chase, rendezvous, and dock with an orbital laboratory, Tiangong, which had been circling the Earth since the previous September and set up China’s first space station. Walking a few feet apart in a line were, in the middle, mission commander and veteran Jing Haipeng; on his left, operator Liu Wang, on his first mission; and on his right and the main focus of attention, China’s first space woman, Liu Yang. As they walked stiffly, ever so shghtly hunched forward (spacesuits are not designed for walking), the thronging crowds cheered and waved their flowers while the band struck up a quicker march. The three astronauts carried a small air-conditioning box, like a workman’s toolbox, as they walked along the crowd and waved. The three stopped to give a peremptory report to the commander and boarded their bus. Five buses set out for the pad, preceded by a jeep and motorcycle escort, down the green-lined avenue near the astronaut quarters. More crowds lined the route as the band played on, others rushing forward along the grass verge to keep up with the slow convoy and take pictures.

The convoy then arrived in the cool shadow of the launch tower, a huge structure of girder, levels, and scaffolds. Assistants in blue coveralls and face masks helped the astronauts out. The three stood together, reporting to the state commission, waved, and walked forward into the base of the pad to take the lift to the top. The lift

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

DOI 10.1007/978-l-4614-5043-6_l, © Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

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The crew of Shenzhou 9 steps forward to leave the dressing area for the bus bringing them to the pad. Left to right: Liu Yang, commander Jing Haipeng, and operator and newcomer Liu Wang. Courtesy: Press Association.

brought them up the vast structure. They emerged from the lift, to be greeted by red – uniformed assistance crew.

Their Long March 2F rocket had been in Jiuquan launch center for two months now. In early April, it left its assembly room in Beijing, the workers standing to attention and saluting as it rolled out on the railway line that came right into the factory. It was then put on the flat of its back for the long, two-day journey to the north-west, heading into the desert of Gansu, to Jiuquan, the town meaning “oasis” that marks the end point of the Great Wall. The rocket reached the launch center on 9th April, preceded by the Shenzhou manned space cabin that would be lifted by crane to its top.

But who would fly? China had recruited three groups of astronauts. The first were selected in April 1971 on an abortive, hopelessly ambitious and quickly abandoned attempt to put astronauts into space in the 1970s. When the manned space program was restarted in the 1990s, 14 astronauts were recruited and from this group was drawn the mission commander Jing Haipeng, aged 45. He had already been in space before on Shenzhou 7 four years earlier, flying on the mission for China’s first space walk, and had been promoted to brigadier. Also drawn from this group was Liu Wang, at age 42 its youngest member, who, before that, had served six years in the Air Force with over 1,000 hours’ flying time and was also a brigadier. China had recruited a third group in 2010 – five men and two women, all Air Force pilots. In December 2011, the selectors had identified, from this pool of Groups 2 and 3, seven men and two women who would fly the next two missions, Shenzhou 9 and 10. Originally, the first crew was to comprise three men and the second crew (Shenzhou 10) would include a woman but, in March 2012, chief designer Qi Faren announced that a woman would fly on Shenzhou 9. Who would she be?

There had been two finalists: Air Force pilots Major Yang Waping, aged 32, and Major Liu Yang, aged 33. Their identity had become known the previous year when postage stamps of their historic mission had been released accidentally prematurely. There had been quite a row, it seems, about their final selection. Liu Yang was the best connected and married to another Air Force pilot. The selection led to lively internet posting and blogs about the decision and it is reported that Wang Yaping’s father, Wang Lijun, posted a blog expressing his concerns that all the media attention would lead to his daughter’s “losing the flight” – but the post was removed, we do not know by whom, within 24 hr. In the end, Liu Yang was selected and the announcement had been made the previous day. She proved a good choice, being personable with the media, and it was made clear that Wang Yaping would get her chance on a later Shenzhou mission. Even as they boarded their bus, their backup crew stood ready to take over if one became suddenly ill, but their members must have known that their chances were fading fast. The backups were, aside from Wang Yaping, mission commander and Shenzhou 6 veteran Nie Haisheng, and another member of the second group, Zhang Xiaoguang.

Their spacecraft, Shenzhou 9, had been fuelled up two weeks earlier on 29th May. Stacked onto its Long March 2F rocket, they had rolled out to the desert launch pad

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Liu Yang, China’s first space woman, soon to become the most celebrated woman in contemporary China. Courtesy: Press Association.

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Shenzhou’s Long March 2F rocket, with the vehicle assembly building in the background. Courtesy: DLR.

on 9th June. The two crews for the mission arrived from Beijing that very day for final preparations and training. The last thing that Liu Yang did before leaving was to phone her mother-in-law to tell her of the upcoming flight and not to worry.

China had never launched a Shenzhou spaceship in summer before and weather was a concern in the days up to the launch, for two reasons. First, the summer heat could well trigger off storms that would delay a launch; and, second, although the nitric acid fuels of the rocket can be stored for a long time at room temperature, they begin to become a problem when temperatures rise. Weather balloons were released in the days up to the launch to test the air for its stability: so far, so good. The crew boarded the rocket two hours before launch. They entered through the orbital module at the top, squeezing slowly and carefully into the lower, beehive-shaped descent module, Liu Yang in the left seat, Liu Wang in the right seat, and commander Jing Haipeng coming down the tunnel last to sit in the middle. They settled down for the wait as the final checks were completed.

As was now the norm, the launch was covered live on Chinese television. The white rocket with the Chinese flag could be seen against the brown desert and flat horizon, stacked beside the huge structure of its blue and light-green steel tower. No more than in Baikonour, they do not do countdown clocks in Jiuquan, so watchers had to listen to the audio commentary to know how close they were to launch (though the launch time of 18:37 local time had been given a week earlier).[1] The one – minute mark was announced and the small red girders of the swing arms moved back from the rocket. It now stood on its own. At 10 sec, the final countdown was called in Chinese.

The cameras zoomed in at the base of the rocket. There was a sudden thud as the nitric fuels ignited and, within a second, the rocket began to rise. The ascent of the Long March 2F is initially slow and dead straight but, after half a minute, it begins to bend over and accelerate in its climb. Ground cameras caught it as it sped upward. Infrared cameras showed the bright engine lights burning. The events of the third minute into the mission are quite dramatic. First, at 130 sec, the pin-shaped escape tower is fired off the top and tumbles away. At 160 sec, the four strap-on boosters spin away, followed by the entire first stage, which drops back. After a brief pause, the second stage ignites and, at 200 sec, the payload fairing is blown off the top. Natural light now floods into the cabin. An inside color camera view showed commander Jing Haipeng in the middle, Liu Yang on his left, and Liu Wang on his right, their feet tucked up in their contoured seats. They appeared relaxed, with no vibration evident.

A bow-shaped shock wave formed around the rocket as it headed into the far distance, a mere pin-prick now barely visible from the ground where, meantime, a cloud of brown smoke had risen from the pad. The rocket now tracked south-east, well south of Beijing, to cross the Chinese coast at the Yellow Sea and head over the Pacific. It had now reached altitude and, as the second stage burned, the rocket was essentially horizontal, building up the speed necessary to achieve orbital velocity. Look-back cameras gave almost vertiginous views of the ground falling away and the horizon turning from a flat line into a curved shape. Within eight minutes, Shenzhou 9 was almost in orbit. Next, cameras on the rocket showed the separation of the cabin from the rocket, as a shower of water droplets spilt free. They had reached orbit, to applause in mission control while the three astronauts waved and clasped hands in celebration. Jing Haipeng’s clipboard could be seen floating free when they became weightless. The initial orbit was 261-315 km, exactly as hoped for.

No sooner had they arrived in orbit than television cameras on the outside of the craft showed the two solar panels stretch open. At the time, Shenzhou 9 was passing over the Yuan Wang 5 tracking ship and there were brief interruptions as it acquired the signal, the images from the cabin occasionally breaking up. Had the panels failed to open, the crew would have had no electrical power and been obliged to make an emergency landing an orbit later in an ellipse marked out in western China.

They took off their spacesuits and moved into blue coveralls. They opened the tunnel into the larger, more spacious orbital module at the front. Crammed into Shenzhou were experiments and 300 kg of water and food. Media coverage of the launch was intense in China, inevitably focused on Liu Yang, now set to become one of the most famous women in China’s history. Media found their way to her home town to interview her family, school mates, and Air Force colleagues. Liu Yang was the 56th woman in space, but the launch made China only the third country to have launched a woman into space by itself. She was launched on the 49th anniversary, to the day, of the first woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova, in 1963.

The next two days were uneventful as Shenzhou chased Tiangong in orbit. Three changes of path were required for Shenzhou to close the distance with Tiangong, the first being to lift the low point from 261 to 315 km. The following day, at 14:40 UT on 17th June, Shenzhou adjusted its orbit to 315-326 km. By the morning of the 18th, Shenzhou had closed the distance to the station and both were circling the Earth at 343 km. At 53-km distance, Shenzhou began pinging Tiangong with its radar. Black-and-white cameras had been installed on both Tiangong and Shenzhou, following the one approaching the other on a split screen at mission control. As Shenzhou came in, entirely under automatic control at 20 cm/sec, the petals of the docking mechanism became ever clearer, opening like jaws to close with the ring on Tiangong.

There was a shudder as the two came together at 06:08 UT on 18th June. Air was squirted into the docking tunnel and the pressures of Shenzhou, the tunnel, and Tiangong equalized. Three hours later at 09:10, when the combined spacecraft were back over Chinese territory, the hatch was opened into Tiangong and Jing Haipeng and Liu Wang floated through, leaving Liu Yang temporarily in Shenzhou. The inside of Tiangong was a long cylindrical box shape, with small straps installed at points all along the four walls for the astronauts to hold in weightlessness. On one wall, there were three computer screens for the astronauts to operate while on

The heavenly palace

another was a Chinese flag. There was a food heater and a hidden toilet. After a short period, all three astronauts presented themselves together in front of the television camera to report and salute, to stormy applause in mission control. The Tiangong station was declared operational: China had, at last, built an orbital space station. President Hu Jintao came to mission control to formally congratulate them in a telecast.

Every evening, Chinese television followed the progress of the astronauts as they worked in the laboratory in their blue coveralls. Liu Yang exercised on a bicycle which could be unfolded from a wall. Her fellow crewmembers operated the computer and conducted experiments. On the 21st, they spoke to their families in ground control. The normal pattern was for two to sleep in Tiangong and one in Shenzhou. For experienced space watchers, the cabin was smaller than the Soviet Salyut station and nearer to the size of the Spacelab module that used to be carried by the Space Shuttle.

They carried out 10 medical experiments. Ground controllers reported on the food they were eating, such as rice pudding. Whereas previous space travelers relied on biscuits and toothpaste-tube food, this mission boasted a much-improved menu with 70 different items, mainly traditional Chinese food. On the new menu were sweet-and-sour, bean curd, spicy food, and rice with fried dishes. Besides Uve communications, they communicated to the ground by e-mail, with photos, text, and videos. Liu Wang could be seen playing the harmonica to send birthday greetings to his wife. Liu Yang could be seen with her laptop. According to her, weightlessness made her feel “like a fish swimming freely in water”. It was a week of scientific achievement for China because, that very week, the submersible Jiaolong was exploring inner space, diving 6,965 m deep into the Marianas Trench in the Pacific.

After a week on board, the time for one of the most important tests of the mission came: undocking and then re-docking manually. Manual docking was an important maneuver to test should, on a future mission, the automatic control system break down. Jing Haipeng and Liu Wang had rehearsed the maneuver 1,500 times in simulations, but real events can always throw up surprises. First, on the 22nd, Tiangong’s orientation system was turned off and Liu Wang went into Shenzhou to test the maneuvering engines of the smaller spacecraft. The next day, 23rd June, was the big day, for they faced the challenge of undocking from the station, retreating to a distance of 400 m, and then re-docking, but under manual control. It coincided with the day of the Dragon Boat Festival, in advance of which they sent greetings to all those involved. Then, the three astronauts put on their spacesuits (a precaution against depressuriza­tion), squeezed back into the descent cabin of Shenzhou, undocked, and backed away under automatic control to a distance of 400 m. They separated at 03:10 UT.

A screen split three ways in mission control showed the two spacecraft pinging one another on the bottom, with data readout superimposed on the screen; the crew cabin with the three astronauts in their protective spacesuits but visors up on the right; and the spacecraft moving together in black-and-white images on the left. Liu Wang, called “the operator”, was in charge and he could be seen at the controls. Back on the Earth, ground controllers could be seen in their white doctor’s coats, with mission badges, headsets, and microphones.

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The configuration of Shenzhou and Tiangong docked in space. Courtesy: Press


At 140 m, the manual control system was activated and Shenzhou began to move forward. Displays clicked off the closing distances. The global tracking map indicated that the maneuver was taking place over the Horn of Africa. Now, the laser radar detector was switched on. At 100 m, Tiangong grew in size on the screen as the two spacecraft drew together at 40 cm/min. Tiangong was poorly lit but, when the screen switched to image Shenzhou, it was sharply visible, its solar panels shining in the bright sunlight over the curvature of the Earth. There was a continuous chatter of the mission controllers in the background. The cross of the docking marker was outlined in the cross-hairs of the closing Shenzhou’s camera. Shenzhou was imaged in beautifully clear detail as they closed the final meters. The connection was made absolutely smoothly, Shenzhou yawing just slightly after they met at 04:48 UT, 12:48 Beijing time, after an hour and a half flying separately. They then pulled together for the final tightening and hard dock. Within minutes this time, they re-entered the laboratory. Mission controllers allowed themselves a moment of applause, some giving the thumbs-up, before getting out of their seats to shake hands with colleagues, broad smiles all round.

Late on 27th June, the astronauts boarded the Shenzhou 9 cabin for the return to the Earth. The hatch into their orbital home was closed at 22:37 UT. There was a slight jolt as Shenzhou uncoupled at 01:22 UT early the following morning, the 28th, and moved steadily away. Liu Wang used manual control to back Shenzhou away to 5 km from Tiangong. At 04:35, he moved the spacecraft into a new orbit for re-entry. They had almost a day on Shenzhou to themselves as they prepared for landing early the following morning, 29th June (on the Russian Soyuz returning from the International Space Station (ISS), re-entry normally takes place only two orbits later).

The critical events took place over the South Atlantic Ocean approaching the coast of Africa. As Shenzhou came over one of the tracking ships at 01:16 UT, the orbital module was released: it would orbit the Earth for a couple of months before burning up in the upper layers of the atmosphere. A minute later, the retrorockets burned, the end of maneuver reported to the Chinese ground tracking station at Swakopmund on the Namibian coast. Shenzhou now began a curving descent over Africa, passing over the Malindi tracking station in Kenya and out over the Indian Ocean, with another tracking ship stationed off the Pakistan coast. Moments later, at 01:37, the descent module was released. The cabin was now on its own, 140 km over the Earth, tracking towards the next station in the chain, Karachi, Pakistan, its pathway taking it between Islamabad and New Delhi. Remarkably, cameras picked up the whole re-entry on infrared, identifying two big trails in the high atmosphere. The largest, a blob-shaped trail, was the service module, which grew brighter, flashed, broke up, and dissolved. Ahead raced a longer, steadier trail, like a meteor – the tiny Shenzhou cabin with its crew of three on board. Going through re-entry was like being inside a blowtorch, they all say, as the cabin is enveloped in gases that glow red and orange and yellow from the great heat. At the end of the four-minute blackout, the cabin had fallen to an altitude of 40 km above the Earth. Over northern China, the cameras continued to follow the spacecraft, the dark background turning to a very light blue as they spotted first the drogue, then the main parachute come out at around 10,000 m. The Shenzhou cabin could be seen twisting back and forth as it settled under the parachute ropes. It had 10 min to drift to the ground.

Mil-type helicopters were already in the air and their crews quickly spotted the descending cabin. The descent could now be followed from three spots: from the ground, at long range from a first helicopter, and then close up from a second that hovered over the parachute to observe the descent from above – a much more sophisticated operation than the norm in Kazakhstan when Soyuz comes down. The cabin was caught in a breeze and developed quite a side motion. It could now be seen venting unwanted fuel so as to reduce the risk of an accident at touchdown. Shenzhou could be seen clearly as it tracked over grasslands, criss-crossed by tracks and minor roads where rescue jeeps had gathered – including a truck with local farmers who had escaped the security cordon and saw everything. Shenzhou’s shadow could now be clearly seen against the ground, passing over a small river and, when the cabin moved to meet its shadow, it was obvious that touchdown was close. Wham! The cabin’s tipped into the ground, the four retrorockets fired in a puff of black smoke, the cabin tumbled end over end, and came to rest on its side. It gouged out quite an impression in the clay. A guillotine cut the parachute, which deflated and drifted lazily to the ground. Shenzhou had come to rest on a sandy slope beside a river in a small valley, on a desert floor of grasses and small shrubs. Touchdown time was 10:02 local time, 02:02 UT, at 42.2°N, 111.2°E. Blown by the strong wind, they came down some 16 km from the precise aim point, but still within the 36 x 36-km landing ellipse, about 1,000 km downrange from Jiuquan from where they had been launched two weeks earlier. There is a backup landing site just south of Jiuquan should the crew make a steep, ballistic re-entry. Both points were closed off to aircraft as the moment of landing approached.

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After landing, the crew of Shenzhou 9 relaxed in directors’ chairs, the cabin behind them. Courtesy: Press Association.

The rescue teams rushed forward, dressed in red coveralls, the medical teams in white coveralls. They opened the hatch, which was close enough to the ground, so the crew must have been hanging out of their seats, restrained by their straps, facing downward at 45°. Medical rules require the crew to remain in the cabin for readjustment to gravity for up to 75 min, quite different from the standard Russian practice in which the crew is normally taken out straightaway. Rescuers passed in bottles of water, before they unstrapped and took the crew out one by one. There was another round of applause in mission control as Liu Yang emerged, smiling cheerfully, and the three were then placed side by side in directors’ chairs a few meters from the cabin. Three rescuers came forward and presented the crew, who saluted from their sitting position, with flowers. The three clasped their hands together in the air to a third round of stormy applause in mission control, where controllers had now been joined by Prime Minister Wen Jiabao. This formally marked the end of their mission, for they could rise from their seats to congratulate their co-workers. Rescuers then lifted the three crewmembers together into a large waiting helicopter for an initial airborne medical examination and later return to Beijing. The mission had lasted 12 days 15 hr – more than twice as long as the previous longest Chinese space mission. They were sent for two weeks’ rest and debriefing, emerging to give press interviews on 16th July.

The mission had gone entirely smoothly, with no hitches, all the key points reported live in the Chinese media. In the space of two weeks, China had made its

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A hero’s welcome for Liu Yang, helicopter in the background. Courtesy: Press


longest space mission, sent its first woman into space, carried out first an automatic docking and then a manual one, and occupied its first space station – and this was only its fourth manned spaceflight. There was much cause for relief and celebration. No sooner was the mission over than China announced that Shenzhou 10 would repeat the mission early in 2013 [1]. Tiangong continued to circle the Earth, moving into a higher orbit of 354-365 km to be ready for another docking in six months’ time, while Shenzhou 9’s old orbital module was left behind in 333-354 km orbit, where it would eventually bum up.

Thus, China established its first space station in orbit around the Earth in summer 2012. But it was not the only station circling the Earth. Even as the three yuhangyuan left Tiangong, a much larger 470-tonne space station kept them company, albeit in a different orbit. Crewed by six astronauts and cosmonauts, its solar panels so big and bright as to make it the most visible object in the night sky, it was the ISS. By coincidence, three members of the ISS crew returned to the Earth only two days later, in another desert further to the west in Kazakhstan. So why had China built its own orbiting space station and how?


This appeared to end the series. The long-promised seeds satellite, flown as Shi Jian 8 and launched from Jiuquan on 9th September 2006, is, for convenience, reviewed here (the rest of the Shi Jian series is reported in Chapter 7). Although it has a different designator, we know that it was an FSW cabin and it was many times referred to by the Chinese as the “23rd recoverable mission” and as an FSW 3 series mission. The orbit was similar to other Jian Bing 4s, with a perigee of 178 km and apogee of 449 km. A day into the mission, it was reported that the seeds and fungi
were already sprouting: high-definition cameras sent back pictures of their growth every two hours to Xian mission control for forwarding on to the Shanghai Institute for Biological Science. The recoverable satellite came down after 15 days on the morning of 24th September, while the orbital module stayed aloft for another three days. It is also possible that it was the last film-based photo-reconnaissance mission. Shi Jian 8 was brought for examination to the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Science, where its seeds, vegetables, plans, fruits, grains, and cotton were handed over to the Institute for Plant Physiology and the Shanghai Institute for Biological Sciences.

An important breakthrough in Shi Jian 8 was live and recorded video broadcasting of experiments under way. Shi Jian 8 had a volume of 0.9 m3, 0.45 m3 in the recovered cabin, and an overall payload of 600 kg including a down payload of 250 kg. There were 215 kg of vegetables, fruit, grains, seeds, and cotton on board of 2,000 types, 152 species, 202 accessions, 80 groups, and 9 plant types. Shi Jian 8 carried experiments on the mutation of seeds, cell cultivation, mass transfer, granular media, surface deformation, boiling water, fire resistance, higher plants, smoldering, and a spring accelerometer. The satellite had a 256-GB memory, transmitting daily downlink on S-band at 8 MB a day in 25-min passes. Most FSW experiments were designed to be operated automatically, using a pre-programmed timer, but some were commanded on by telemetry. Whereas the seeds experiments were located in the recoverable module, the materials processing experiments appear to have been located in the orbital module. The orbital module experiments are listed in Table 4.1.

Looking at the experiments in more detail, Shi Jian 8 carried a Mach-Zehnder interferometer, a system of light beams to measure the behavior of water droplets in a protein solution in zero gravity, named after Ludwig Mach (son of Ernst, who invented the Mach number) and Ludwig Zehnder. An exotic experiment undertaken with French scientists studied the behavior of granular gas balls [13]. Shi Jian 8 continued the heating and boiling experiments first tried on FSW 22, this time using a plate heater. Water droplets were immersed in protein solutions. An experiment in granular matter was carried out to test, using video, the Maxwell demon effect (an experiment developed by James Clerk Maxwell to test the laws of thermodynamics).

An important experiment carried out tests on one of the great dangers of spaceflight: fire. In 1967, the Apollo 1 astronauts had died when a smoldering wire caused a fire, which, in an oxygen-rich atmosphere, rapidly consumed the cabin.

Table 4.1. Shi Jian 8 orbital module experiments.

Smoldering and combustion in microgravity Fire transmission by wires in microgravity Heat transfer in microgravity Granular media in microgravity Mass transfer in microgravity Development of mice embryos in microgravity Effects of microgravity on Chinese cabbage

Transmitting live video of bubbles from Shi Jian 8. Courtesy: COSPAR China.

Smoldering fires were subsequently detected on five shuttle missions (STS-6, 28, 35, 40, and 50). Here, an experiment found that the heat-loss factors that normally dissipate smoldering on the Earth were much reduced in weightlessness, making such pre-fires potentially far more dangerous. Electric wiring was much more likely to overheat and catch fire than on the ground. It was found that, in a 21% oxygen environment, smoldering flame on polyurethane foam did not progress but, at 35%, oxygen turned to flame and spread fast [14].

Four Kunming white mice early-stage cell embryos were carried on the non­recoverable module: they were photographed every three hours for 72 hr and it was found that the embryos failed to develop normally (none got beyond eight cells), unlike an identical ground control set. Scientists came to the conclusion that microgravity had a lethal effect on embryos at an early stage. Also in the orbital module was a garden of eight Chinese cabbages, the aim being to follow the growth cycle from germination through to pollination. The garden had lamps to illuminate the plants and cameras took pictures every 2 hr. Although leaf shapes were unaffected by weightlessness, there were fewer leaves and they grew shorter, more slowly, and wilted before the petals had even fully extended [15].

At the time of this mission, it was announced that it would be followed by Shi Jian 10 for a 28-day mission in microgravity and life sciences – a mission originally scheduled for 2010 but which slipped. The aim is to carry 20 experiments in microgravity fluid physics, microgravity combustion, space materials science, fundamental space physics, space biotechnology, and to study the biological effect of gravity and radiation. The materials processing experiments would focus on crystal growth from melt, under-cooling, crystal growth solutions, nucleation, and the solidification of alloys. While awaiting the next mission, China’s following cargo flew on a Russian satellite, Foton М3, in September 2007, using its Polizon-M furnace to test new materials for Diluted Magnetic Semiconductors (DMS). The experiment involved creating a rotating magnetic field around a heated, growing crystal [16].


Smoldering test results. Both courtesy: COSPAR.


Space science has not been a prominent aspect of the Chinese space program. The substituting of scientific instruments originally intended for the first Chinese satellite by a tape recorder playing “The East Is Red” was an indicator of things to come. The number of purely scientific satellites launched by China is small: Shi Jian 1, 2, 4, and 5, with some scientific instruments and experiments carried out on other spacecraft (e. g. the early communications satellites, Feng Yun). The Tianwen Weixing was canceled in 1984. Despite a lengthy campaign by the astronomical and astrophysics community, other scientific projects like the solar telescope and the x – ray telescope have had long gestation periods and, despite conception in the 1990s, have still to fly 20 years later. Clearly, science has found it difficult to fight its comer, even in a financial environment more stable than that of Russia, where space science suffered badly in the years of economic difficulty. The Tan Ce missions did give China a substantial scientific return, as well as international recognition, and may have provided the encouragement necessary to renew old and develop new missions, like the SST, the Hard X-ray Modulation Telescope, Kuafu, and MIT. As we will see later, the government came to recognize the importance of rectifying the historic underinvestment in space science and set down fresh plans for more ambitious missions in space science (see Chapter 10). Some of these gaps were later made good by the use of the orbital module of the Shenzhou manned program to carry scientific packages – a role reviewed in the course of Chapter 8, as well as by the start of the lunar program in the early twenty-first century (Chapter 9).

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 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)


Soon after Shenzhou 7, China announced that the next step would be the construction of an orbiting space station (Chapter 1). In the meantime, early progress was made on the expansion of the corps of yuhangyuan, necessary to serve the set of missions planned for the 2010 decade. For the first time, women were included. Selection began in May 2009 with 500, shortlisted to 30 men and 15 women. They were reduced to 15 who went for screening in the astronaut training center in October 2009. On 10th March 2010, the final selection of five men and two women was completed. The age group was 30-35, with an average of 32.5.

The recruitment of the first female astronauts went through a number of evolutions. The first move to include women came when, after the flight of Yang Liwei, Gu Xiulian, head of the women’s federation of China, demanded that a woman now be sent into space. The obvious place to look was among women pilots in the PLA Air Force. Here, China had recruited groups of women pilots ever since 1949, with subsequent intakes in 1957, 1965, 1973, 1981, 1989, and 1997, each being called a “generation” (first, second, third, etc.), with the 1997 intake the seventh generation. Generally, they were taken in at age 17-19 and 328 had been recruited by then. The seventh generation comprised 37 cadets, all born in 1978-80, of whom 21 had become transport pilots. The eighth generation was recruited in 2005: candidates studied for more than two years for an aviation degree and then for more than a year in flying, with 16 graduating from this group in 2009. Some of them were lucky enough to be chosen to participate in the fly-past that October to mark the 60th anniversary of the revolution. All would be in their mid-20s for a possible space mission, the same age as Valentina Terreshkova in 1963, who was 26.

For the third selection of astronauts in 2009, women were invited to compete and the age range was lifted to 35. This was an important decision, because it enabled not just the younger women in the eighth generation to compete, but also the older seventh generation. In effect, a decision seems to have been made to open the competition to women with more flying hours, even if they were in transport planes rather than fighters. In addition, the recruiters did not wish training to be interrupted by pregnancy, so they let it be known that they wanted married women who already had their sole child permitted under the Chinese system and also expressed the need for people who were “psychologically mature” (possibly a coded term for “motherhood”). In the event, the average age of the women candidates was 29.5 years.

Two women were chosen. The five men and two women reported for training on 7th May 2010. The finalists were not announced in the Chinese media, but their names turned up because, of all people, the military issued promotional biographies of all its top women pilots, which, coupled with mentions of new astronauts in the local media, made it possible to identify the new group – a detection exercise carried out by space writer Tony Quine. At the 2010 meeting of the Association of Space Explorers, Chinese officials were confronted with the names of the finalists, which they did not contradict. The parents of the new selections were, in no time, giving interviews to Chinese TV. What finally gave the game away was when, on 7th December 2011, a stamp cover was issued in advance of the forthcoming mission with, on it, Yang Waping and Liu Yang.

But who would be selected? Both had strong credentials. Yang Waping appeared to be firm favorite. She was already known for flying in help after the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake and for having seeded, from aircraft, clouds that might otherwise have rained on the Beijing Olympics. As for Liu Yang, she came from Zhengzhou in Hainan, where she was born in October 1978. She was described as a quiet studious teenager who surprised everyone when she applied to the Air Force aviation college when she turned 18 in 1997. She was away from home for four years and did not return there for any length of time until she graduated in 2001. Two years later, her plane suffered a bird strike. Pigeon blood spattered the windscreen and one of its engines lost power. Taking the precaution of sending out a mayday message, she managed to make an emergency landing – the kind of calmness under pressure that would appeal to astronaut selectors. Next year, in 2004, she married a fellow military officer, they moved to Wuhan, she was assigned to a squadron of transport planes, and she learned English. When she went for training in Beijing in May 2010, her husband joined her. As we know, she got the nod and the rest is history. The group was comprised as shown in Table 8.6.

Table 8.6. China’s third group of yuhangyuan, 2010.

Zhang Hu Chen Dong Cai Xuzhe Tang Honbo Yi Guangfu Yang Waping Liu Yang

The second selection brought the squad to 21, third in the world, behind the United States (68) and Russia (40) but ahead of Europe and Japan. During the Shenzhou 7 post-flight tour, deputy mission director Zhang Jianqi announced that the next, fourth group would comprise scientists and engineers and would be open to Hong Kong and Macao. Later, applicants from industrial companies would be welcomed [15]. China’s selection of astronauts is summarized in Table 8.7.

Table 8.7. Selection of yuhangyuan teams.

1st group


19 men

2nd group


14 men, including two instructors

3rd group


Five men, two women

4th group

2015 (due)

Scientists and engineers


This chapter outlined how China became the third manned spacefaring nation in the world. It is a program that had an uncertain start, or, to be more accurate, two starts. Its abortive start in 1971 tells us much of China’s long-term ambitions in space, as well as the peculiar political circumstances of the day. Few would now argue that this project was anything other than premature. The ideal of manned flight was, nevertheless, kept alive in the ground and medical training that continued. The second start to the program in 1989 is intriguing from many points of view. First, the decision to go ahead had a far from clear path, for it was characterized by much uncertainty in the Chinese leadership, even if such debates took place behind closed doors. Second, many of the designs considered, such as spaceplanes, were adventurous and very much geared to long-term objectives. In the end, the most conservative design was followed – one which has clearly worked well (we can only speculate when they might have a spaceplane or shuttle airborne). Third, it is also clear that, even after 1992, the success of the manned program was by no means assured. Attempts were made to cancel it, the designers struggled to meet deadlines, and the first 1999 mission may have been something of a gamble. It was a story of many What ifs? There was nothing inevitable about the Chinese manned space program. The early 1990s saw a consolidation of political structures and leadership in China, with clearly dehneated roles for president and prime minister. The timing of project 921 may have been fortunate, for this may have provided the stability necessary for it to bed in.

As for the program that eventually developed, the most striking feature is its slow but steady pace. Although Western observers might have expected China to have developed its manned space program at the pace seen in the United States and Soviet Union in the late 1950s and early 1960s, this was not the case. The development of the manned program was characterized by considerable caution, with four full unmanned missions (1999, 2001, two in 2002) before a single pilot was put on board for a short mission (2003). Even then, the pace of the program was slow, with two years elapsing before the next flight (2005), another three before the space walk mission (2008), and a further four before the first flight to the space station (2012). The slow, cautious pace was rewarded with comparatively incident-free missions. The approach has also been purposeful and economic, each manned mission representing a substantial step forward, with very little repetition of earlier achievements. Each one, though, ticked off all the key requirements necessary for the construction of a space station.

The program demonstrated a judicious combination of indigenous development with external know-how, Shenzhou itself being the prime example. The Chinese permitted themselves to learn from, rather than copy, the Soyuz system, but they chose to buy in Russian expertise where not doing so might well have delayed their progress, such as with spacesuits, environmental control systems, and cosmonaut training. The Chinese by no means allowed themselves to be boxed in by external example, as demonstrated by their use of orbital modules for an independent program, one of the surprises of the Shenzhou program – something which the Russians had never done with their Soyuz orbital module. It gave the Chinese a considerable bonus for each mission and, in the case of Shenzhou 2, 3, and 4, there was a substantial published scientific program. Table 8.8 summarizes the Shenzhou series, including orbital module durations.

Table 8.8. Shenzhou series.



Mission duration

Orbital module*

19 Nov 1999

Shenzhou 1

21 hr

12 days

10 Jan 2001

Shenzhou 2

7 days

226 days

25 Mar 2002

Shenzhou 3

7 days

232 days

30 Dec 2002

Shenzhou 4

7 days

247 days

15 Oct 2003

Shenzhou 5

1 day

227 days

12 Oct 2005

Shenzhou 6

6 days

532 days

25 Sep 2008

Shenzhou 7

3 days

466 days

31 Oct 2011

Shenzhou 8

18 days

137 days

16 Jun 2012

Shenzhou 9

13 days

* Total time on orbit, both independently and when attached to main spacecraft.


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


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.


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.