China’s ambitions

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

CHINA IN A COMPARATIVE INTERNATIONAL PERSPECTIVE

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

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

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

1957-2011

2007-11

2011

Russia

2,942

149

30

United States

1,407

88

17

Europe

204

30

5

China

154

59

18

Japan

79

11

3

India

28

12

3

Israel

6

1

Iran

2

2

1

4,822

352

77

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

Leave a reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>