Tag Archives: China

China successfully launches three satellites

China today ended a long pause in launches since the failure of its Long March 5 rocket in July and placed in orbit three military satellites using a smaller rocket not used since 2004.

The use of such a rocket is most intriguing. Meanwhile, no word yet on when launches will resume on their other more up-to-date rockets, including their new and most powerful Long March 5.

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Egypt announces creation of space agency

The new colonial movement: The Egyptian government today voted to create an Egyptian space agency with the goal of encouraging the development of a home-based satellite industry.

The ruling by the Council of Ministers will now pass on to the Egyptian parliament for final agreement and made into law. Minister Abdel Ghaffar also said that Egypt intends create a satellite manufacturing centre in 2019, and then launch Egypt’s first indigenously made satellite in 2020.

This satellite is now dubbed Misr Sat 2, previously known as EgyptSat-2, and will be designed and manufactured at Space City, located in New Cairo. Space City is a one hundred acre plot of land where satellite manufacturing and other space facilities are being built. Misr Sat-2 is to be partly funded by China to the tune of U.S.$45 million after a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and China’s President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the BRICS Summit held in Xiamen, China, earlier in September 2017.

This project is linked to larger aid from China, and appears to be prompted by this Chinese aid.

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Chinese government orders shutdown of all North Korean businesses

The Chinese government has ordered that all businesses run by North Koreans, whether singly or in a joint partnership, must shut down within the next four months.

The order applies to all such businesses in China, as well as any Chinese/North Korean joint ventures abroad. It will exempt nonprofits and “noncommercial infrastructure projects,” whatever that is, and will also allow individual businesses to request a waiver.

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Long March 5 failure to delay Chinese lunar probes and space station

The July launch failure of China’s largest rocket, Long March 5, is going to cause delays to both its lunar and space station programs.

They have not yet finished their investigation into the failure, and are now admitting that the launch of Chang’e-5, a lunar sample return mission, will not occur this year as planned, and that the launch of their space station core module will be delayed into 2019.

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Chinese banks cease all business with North Korea

China’s central bank has ordered all Chinese banks to stop all business with North Korea.

Chinese banks have come under scrutiny for their role as a conduit for funds flowing to and from China’s increasingly isolated neighbor. The sources said banks were told to stop providing financial services to new North Korean customers and to wind down loans with existing customers, following tighter sanctions against Pyongyang by the United Nations. The sources said lenders were asked to fully implement United Nations sanctions against North Korea and were warned of the economic losses and reputational risks if they did not do so.

Chinese banks received the document on Monday, the sources said.

It appears that this order only effects new business with North Koreans, which means it can be gotten around, and is somewhat meaningless. At the same time, it appears that China’s is slowly stepping up its pressure on North Korea, which is a good thing.

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China successfully completes third robotic docking

China’s Tianzhou-1 test cargo freighter successfully completed its third docking with the prototype test space station module Tiangong-2 today.

Commands for the rendezvous and docking were issued at 17:24 Beijing time, according to the China Manned Space Agency, with the new ‘fast’ process taking 6.5 hours to complete.

Previously the rendezvous and docking process took around two days, or 30 orbits. The breakthrough will be used to allow crewed Shenzhou craft to reach the future Chinese Space Station (CSS) much sooner after launch.

Tianzhou-1 will soon perform a third and final refuelling test with Tiangong-2, before the cargo spacecraft is carefully deorbited over the South Pacific.

No word yet on when China might resume launches however. Since the July launch failure of their largest rocket, Long March 5, the country has launched nothing. There have also been stories that suggest the planned December launch of their Chang’e 5 lunar mission will be delayed now until the spring.

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Russia and China both condemn North Korea’s nuclear test

Has the veil finally lifted from their eyes? The leaders of both Russia and China on Sunday agreed to work together to deal with the threat of a North Korea with nuclear weapons and ICBMs, with China strongly condemning North Korea.

It appears that these nations have suddenly realized that a North Korea with nuclear weapons and missiles capable of delivering those weapons anywhere on the globe is not merely a threat to the U.S., it also poses a threat to them. It is a shame that it took so long for this basic and obvious fact to sink in.

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Building launch backlog in China

The two launch failures in June and July experienced by China has forced an extended pause in rocket launches, resulting in an increasing launch backlog.

The main contractor for the Chinese space programme, the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), had announced plans for a national record of close to 30 launches this year, but recent failures have halted progress, putting pressure on an increasingly intense schedule.

There have been no launches since the high profile failure of the second flight of China’s largest rocket, the Long March 5, on July 2. Preceding that, a Long March 3B, used for launches to geosynchronous and medium Earth orbits, left the Zhongxing-9A telecommunications satellite in a much lower than intended orbit. This partial failure has apparently hit the schedule for launches of China’s Beidou navigation satellites, while two more launch vehicles – the Long March 2D and 4C – also suffered issues last time out.

The Chinese launch calendar typically sees the vast majority of its activity in the second half of the year, and this will need to be the case once again to prevent a large mission backlog. China was looking to launch 6-8 new satellites for its own version of the GPS constellation, starting in July, but it is unclear if the first pair, Beidou-3M3 and Beidou-3M4, will be ready for launch from Xichang in mountainous Sichuan Province.

Right now China has only completed 7 launches in 2017. The article also notes that further launches might be delayed for political reasons:

With the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, a major political event that will see a once-every-five-years reshuffle of the country’s leadership, set for October, it is likely that unnecessary risks – particularly regarding a space programme regarded as a source of national pride and prestige – will be avoided.

What this article indicates is that China is undergoing the same kind of launch pressures experienced by Russia and SpaceX. Rocket science is hard, but the benefits are so great that it forces those involved to solve the problems. I expect we shall see China resume launches, at a fast pace, sometime after October.

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Russia and China to team up to explore Moon?

Russia and China appear ready to sign a cooperative agreement involving the joint exploration of the Moon from 2018 to 2022.

The deal is expected to be signed this October and will bring significant benefits to both nations, particularly in manned and future missions to the moon….

The bilateral agreement will cover five areas including lunar and deep space exploration, developing special materials, collaboration in the area of satellite systems, Earth remote sensing, and space debris research.

No details yet. Moreover, the deal itself has not yet been signed, so this might all vanish into the ether. It does appear however that Russia’s financial problems are forcing it to partner with others, and China presently has a very sophisticated but inexperienced space program and lots of cash. Russia’s experience would be a great help to China, until they don’t need it anymore. Thus, the logic of the agreement.

Posted from the lobby of the Swiftcurrent hotel at the Many Glacier area of Glacier National Park. Diane completed a 10 mile hike today early, so we have the afternoon to relax. Tomorrow we make the long drive south to Capital Reef.

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Chinese engineers and astronomers fight over new telescope design

A dispute over the design of a new Chinese optical telescope has broken out between the astronomers who will use it and the engineers who will build it.

In April, an international committee convened by [Chinese Academy of Science’s] Center for Astronomical Mega-Science, which is responsible for the project, reviewed the competing designs and recommended the three-mirror option [the preference of astronomer Jiansheng Chen and China’s astronomers]. On 10 July, [Xiangqun Cui, the instrument’s chief engineer] organized her own review committee that picked the SYZ design as better. Cui’s panel “leaned toward one side,” Chen says. And one member says that the three-mirror design was not sufficiently presented, partly because no one from the Huazhong team was there. Cui and Su explain in their open letter that a member of their own group who knows it well introduced the Huazhong design. “Members were repeatedly reminded they could abstain from voting,” they write. One-third of the 21 committee members did abstain.

Meanwhile, to date, more than 130 young astronomers have signed an open letter to the astronomical community urging that the recommendations of the international panel be respected.

The fundamental disagreement, according to Chen, is “whether a large science project should be technically or scientifically oriented.” Cui and Su say the choice is between incorporating “rapidly developing new technologies” that ensure a long life for the facility, or “simply replicating a 10-meter telescope built 30 years ago.”

This spat reinforces the impression gained from the recent other story about China’s inability to find a manager for its newly built radio telescope. Its top-down management approach (where decisions are made by well-connected powerful bureaucrats at the top of the chain of command) produces office politics that generally does not lead to good technical decisions.

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China admits it will do nothing to stop North Korea from attacking US

In an official editorial, China has admitted that it will do nothing to stop North Korea from using missiles to attack the US territory of Guam.

Beijing is not able to persuade Washington or Pyongyang to back down at this time. It needs to make clear its stance to all sides and make them understand that when their actions jeopardize China’s interests, China will respond with a firm hand.

China should also make clear that if North Korea launches missiles that threaten US soil first and the US retaliates, China will stay neutral. If the US and South Korea carry out strikes and try to overthrow the North Korean regime and change the political pattern of the Korean Peninsula, China will prevent them from doing so.

In other words, China will not stop North Korea from carrying out its attacks, but if it does so China will also not do anything if the U.S. responds.

The editorial is intellectually dishonest however. It also states,

The real danger is that such a reckless game may lead to miscalculations and a strategic “war.” That is to say, neither Washington nor Pyongyang really wants war, but a war could break out anyway as they do not have the experience of putting such an extreme game under control. [emphasis mine]

The highlighted words are simply wrong. It has been very clear now for several years that North Korea is eager for war, and has been doing everything it can to instigate a conflict.

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China has a giant radio telescope and no one to run it

China’s effort to become a major player in the astronomy and space exploration field has run up against a strange problem.

China has built a staggeringly large instrument in the remote southern, mountainous region of the country called the Five hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope, or FAST. The telescope measures nearly twice as large as the closest comparable facility in the world, the US-operated Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico. Radio telescopes use a large, parabolic dish to collect radio waves from distant sources, such as pulsars and black holes—or even alien civilizations.

According to the South China Morning Post, the country is looking for a foreigner to run the observatory because no Chinese astronomer has the experience of running a facility of such size and complexity. The Chinese Academy of Sciences began advertising the position in western journals and job postings in May, but so far there have been no qualified applicants.

Part of the problem here is that it appears the telescope was built by order of the Chinese government, not Chinese astronomers. It would have been better for China to have built something its own astronomers were qualified to run. Instead, they built something to impress the world, and now can’t find a way to use it.

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China punishes more than 500 scientists for peer review fraud

An investigation in China has revealed peer review fraud in more than 100 papers, causing that nation to discipline more than 500 researchers.

MOST’s 27 July announcement marked the culmination of an investigation into the mass retraction this past April of 107 papers by Chinese authors that appeared in a single journal, “Tumor Biology.” The papers, published between 2012 and 2016, were pulled after editors found “strong reason to believe that the peer review process was compromised,” Editor-in-Chief Torgny Stigbrand, of Umeå University in Sweden, wrote on 20 April on the website of the publisher Springer. (Springer, an arm of Springer Nature, published “Tumor Biology” until December 2016; the journal is now operated by SAGE Publications.)

Investigators say the authors engaged in an all-too-common scam. “Tumor Biology” allowed submitting authors to nominate reviewers. The Chinese authors suggested “experts” and provided email addresses that routed messages from the journal back to the researchers themselves, or to accomplices—sometimes third-party firms hired by the authors—who wrote glowing reviews that helped get the papers accepted.

As the article notes, the journal is as guilty as these fake scientists.

“Tumor Biology,” which is owned by the International Society of Oncology and BioMarkers, has a history of problems. In 2016 it retracted 25 papers all at once for similar peer-review problems. The journal now has the dubious distinction of having retracted “the most papers of any other journal,” according to Retraction Watch. An investigation by ScienceInsider found that several scientists listed on its editorial board had no relationship with the journal and one had even passed away several years ago. The journal “should also improve their examination system to prevent [abuse by] unscrupulous researchers,” Chen says.

SAGE took over responsibility for publishing the journal “with the agreement that there would be a complete overhaul of the editorial structure and peer review practices of the journal, specifically the use of preferred reviewers,” a SAGE spokesperson wrote in an email to ScienceInsider.

Not surprisingly, the article includes some whining about the harshness of China’s punishments. Of the more than 500 disciplined, 314 were merely co-authors on a paper, and had not directly participated in the fraud. The investigation concluded that they should have been more diligent and aware of what the lead authors were doing, a perfectly reasonable conclusion.

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China’s giant single dish radio telescope FAST nears completion

The new colonial movement: The completion of FAST, the world’s largest single dish radio telescope in China, nears completion.

The article over emphasizes one of the telescope’s minor research projects, the search for alien life. However, it also provides a good overview of the telescope’s status. The main dish is finished, and they are presently building the instruments that will use that dish to do astronomical research.

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China begins 200-day simulated self-sufficient space station experiment

The new colonial movement: Four Chinese students yesterday began a 200 day experiment, living in a simulated ground-based space station that will attempt to be self-sufficient for the entire time.

The underlying but unstated goal is revealed by this quote:

But the 200-day group will also be tested to see how they react to living a for period of time without sunlight. The project’s team declined to elaborate. “We did this experiment with animals… so we want to see how much impact it will have on people,” Liu, the professor, said.

They aren’t just testing the self-sufficiency of a future interplanetary spaceship. They are also testing the self-sufficiency of a lunar base, which must undergo 14 days of darkness each lunar day. I wonder if the facility is also subjected to no sunlight during these tests.

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China planning its own commercial sea launch platform

The new colonial movement: According to one Chinese official, China is developing its own ocean-going launch platform for placing commercial payloads into orbit.

Tang Yagang, vice head of the aerospace division of the No.1 institute of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASTC), said that the technology is not difficult and a sea launch platform can be built based on modifying 10,000-tonne freighters.

China will use solid carrier rockets which rely less on launch facilities and feature mature technology, Tang said, adding that key technology for the carrier rockets will be tested at sea this year and the service is expected to be available for international users in 2018.

This pronouncement suggests that the platform is already mostly built, and that the first test launches will occur this year.

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Long March 5 failure occurred at satellite separation

This story notes that the failure of the Long March 5 launch occurred 30 minutes after launch, when the second stage and the satellite were due to separate.

The link also includes footage of the launch through first stage separation and ignition of second stage engines.

It appears therefore that the failure was not in the Long March 5 rocket itself. When satellite separation occurs the second stage has completed its work, so the rocket apparently did its job getting the satellite into orbit. What happened next however remains unknown.

Based on this information it would appear that this failure might not delay later launches of the Long March 5 that much.

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China’s second launch of its Long March 5 rocket fails

The new colonial movement: China has announced that the second launch of its Long March 5 rocket was a failure.

They have provided no other details. Since this is the rocket that they plan to use to launch their space station modules as well as launch this year’s unmanned lunar mission, this failure is probably going to impact those schedules.

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China cuts off oil to North Korea

It’s about time. China’s national oil company has suspended all oil sales to North Korea because of lack of payment.

The reason North Korea doesn’t have the money to buy oil is largely because it hasn’t been able to sell any coal to China. And the reasons for both is likely China’s increasing desire to rein in North Korea’s missile and nuclear arms programs.

Without oil or coal, North Korea’s leadership will find itself hard-pressed to survive.

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China’s Tianzhou-1 completes second docking test

Tianzhou-1, China’s first unmanned cargo freighter, has successfully completed its second docking with the test space station module Tiangong-2.

The two spacecraft will next separate, fly independent of each other for three months, when Tianzhou-1 will attempt a third more difficult docking attempt.

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Did China experience a launch failure today?

The status of a Chinese launch attempt of a communications satellite today remains unknown, hours after launch.

China launched its seventh mission of 2017 on Sunday, lofting the Zhongxing-9A (ChinaSat-9A) communications satellite, but -unusually – there has been no official status update in over three hours since liftoff. The Long March 3B/G2 lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in the hills of Sichuan Province at 00:12 local time on monday (16:12 UTC, 12:12 EDT on Sunday), following on from Thursday’s launch of the country’s first space observatory.

Apparent video footage and locals on social media surprised by the rumbling of the launch vehicle confirmed liftoff. However, official confirmation of launch success, often within an hour, has not followed, bringing speculation of some degree of failure.

Nothing has as yet been confirmed, so this launch might not be a failure.

Update: A problem with the third stage placed the satellite in the wrong orbit.

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China’s Tianzhou-1 freighter completes second refueling test

Tianzhou-1, China’s first unmanned freighter, has successfully completed its second refueling test while docked with that country’s Tiangong-2 space module.

The test was successfully completed at 18:28 Beijing time on June 15th (10:28 UTC), according to an announcement (Chinese) from the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA).

Tianzhou-1 and the Tiangong-2 space station test bed module have been coupled for 54 days in orbit at around 390 kilometres above the Earth since April 22, following launch of Tianzhou-1 on April 20.

A first 29-step, five-day refuelling process was successfully concluded on April 27, marking a major step in China’s space station plans. The second test is understood to have taken two days.

The freighter will next undock, fly free for several months, and then attempt a third docking, this time doing so in only six hours versus the two day maneuvers it has so far completed.

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China launches X-ray space telescope

China today launched the Hard X-ray Modulation Telescope (HXMT), also dubbed Insight by Chinese news sources.

The HXMT carries three x-ray telescopes observing at energies ranging from 20 to 200 kilo-electron volts as well as an instrument to monitor the space environment, according to its designers. While orbiting 550 kilometers above the planet, the HXMT will perform an all-sky survey that is expected to discover a thousand new x-ray sources. Over an expected operating lifetime of 4 years, it will also conduct focused observations of black holes, neutron stars, and gamma ray bursts.

More here. This is China’s first home-grown X-ray space telescope, and its launch once again illustrates that, for at least the next few decades, China intends to be a major player in the exploration of the solar system.

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China to attempt to grow potatoes on Moon

China’s Chang’e-4 lunar rover/lander, set to launch in 2018, will include a small experiment that will attempt to grow potatoes from seeds.

Note that I have just realized that I have been confusing Chang’e-5 with Chang’e-4. Chang’e-5 is a sample return mission that they hope to launch this year. It does not include a rover. Chang’e-4 is a lander/rover mission that is planned for 2018.

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Design questions might delay construction of China’s first big optical telescope

A disagreement over the design of what China hopes would be, for a short while, the world’s largest optical telescope might delay that telescope’s construction.

On one side is an established engineering team, led by a veteran optics expert responsible for the nation’s largest existing telescope, that is eager to push ahead with an ambitious design. On the other are astronomers reveling in a grassroots priority-setting exercise—unprecedented for China—who have doubts about the ambitious design and favor something simpler.

Now, a panel of international experts has reviewed the designs and come out squarely in favor of the simpler proposal, according to a copy of the review obtained by Science. But the conclusion has not ended what one Chinese astronomer calls “an epic battle” between the high-ranking engineers accustomed to top-down control over projects and the nascent grassroots movement.

The telescope would have a mirror diameter of 12-meters, topping the 10.4 meter Gran Telescopio Canarias in the Canary Islands. To get it built in time to be the largest, they need to approve the construction plan by 2018.

The story is interesting in that is highlights the technical problems that exist for these large telescopes, most of which have had serious engineering issues that have limited their scientific output. The disagreement here is caused by an effort by some Chinese scientists to avoid these problems by using a simpler design.

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China reveals landing site for Chang’e-5 lander/rover

China has chosen the landing site for its Chang’e-5 lander/rover and sample return mission, planned to launch later this year.

Liu Jizhong, director of China Lunar Exploration and Space Engineering Center of China National Space Administration (CNSA), for the first time disclosed the probe landing site, an isolated volcanic formation located in the northwest part of the Moon’s near side.

They also said their focus will be the Moon’s south pole, where there is evidence of the possible presence of water ice.

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China to ramp up manned missions to build space station

In order to build its space station, beginning in 2019, China will increase its manned mission rate, completing four missions in five years.

This is still a somewhat glacial pace, compared to other nations. It will seem even slower based on what I expect will start happening once a number of competitive private American rockets begin hauling tourists into space.

The article notes one additional tidbit about China’s station. They plan to run 3 to 6 month long missions there.

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California woman arrested for selling space technology to China

A California woman has been arrested for smuggling space communications technology and equipment to China illegally.

Chen, a resident of the Los Angeles suburb of Pomona, is accused of violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which controls the export of certain goods and technology from the United States.

Specifically, the indictment alleges Chen purchased and smuggled sensitive materials to China without obtaining required export licenses, including components commonly used in military communications “jammers.” She also is accused of smuggling devices typically used in space communications applications, and falsifying the paperwork used in shipping those items to list them as worth $500, rather than their true value of more than $100,000.

The exports in question date from March 2013 to December 2015.

How dare they arrest her! All she is doing is supporting international diversity against the white power oppression of the evil United States. Moreover, we must allow her to express her beliefs. Treason is merely an expression of one’s opinion, and must not be oppressed!

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