Tag Archives: China

China launches smallsat on new rocket

The competition heats up: China yesterday launched a small experimental satellite on new rocket, Kaituozhe-2 (KT-2).

The Xinhua news agency is identifying the new launch vehicle simply as ‘KT-2’. Other sources identify the new launcher as the Kaituo-2. Previously rumors expected that the new launch vehicle was the Kaituozhe-2A. The Kaituozhe-2/Kaituo-2 launch vehicle is a three-stage solid propellant launch vehicle developed by the “CASIC Forth Bureau”. The new launcher is capable of orbiting a 350 kg cargo to LEO or a 250 kg cargo to a 700 km high SSO.

KT-2 has similar capabilities to the Kuaizhou-1A launch vehicle, that was used for the first time on January 9, 2017. The KZ-1A is capable of orbiting a 300 kg satellite to LEO or a 200 kg payload to a 700km SSO. The other Chinese solid fuel launcher, the Long March 11 (Chang Zheng-11) rocket, is capable of orbiting a 750 kg to LEO or 350kg to a 700 km SSO.

With this fleet of small rockets, Chinese is now well positioned to grab market share in the emerging smallsat launch market. Their biggest problem remains the legal restrictions that prevent any American space technology from launching on Chinese rockets.

China completes construction of space station core module

The competition heats up: China has completed the construction of the core module of its full size space station, now set to launch in 2018.

Tianhe-1, the first of three 20-tonne space station modules, was completed by the end of 2016 and has entered a testing phase, according to Bao Weimin of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC). Tianhe-1 will launch from Wenchang on a new Long March 5 heavy-lift rocket sometime in 2018, which was developed specifically to allow China to put large space station modules into low Earth orbit.

The image of the module at the link is remarkable in its resemblance to the core module of Russia’s Mir station, launched in 1986.

China considering multi-asteroid mission

The competition heats up: China is considering an unmanned probe to visit three different asteroids, including Apophis.

According to details that have previously emerged, one proposal is for a launch via Long March 3B rocket to take place in early 2022, with rendezvous with Apophis a year later and spend 220 days in orbit.

Then the probe would depart Apophis for a flyby of 2002 EX11 in 2025, and finally landing on 1996 FG3 in 2027, where it would, in Ji’s words, “conduct in-situ sampling analysis on the surface”.

The proposal is only in the design stage, but it should definitely be taken seriously. China is committing more and more of its resources to its space program, as that program is giving that government a big payoff in international recognition.

Posted in the airport in Dallas, where I have to wait an extra three hours because American Airlines practically shut the door to my connecting flight in my face. Their flight from Belize was late, and then Customs and the TSA conspired to create giant lines for no reason. Even though I had a friend at the gate with whom we were in contact by text who could tell them I was only a minute away, they shut the door anyway.

I have avoided American for more than a decade because they did something as obnoxious to me before. I think it might be a decade before I fly them again.

China suspends coal purchases from North Korea

Finally! In an apparent response to North Korea’s recent ballistic missile test China has suspended its coal purchases from North Korea through the end of this year.

China will suspend all imports of coal from North Korea until the end of the year, the Commerce Ministry announced Saturday, in a surprise move that would cut off a major financial lifeline for Pyongyang and significantly enhance the effectiveness of U.N. sanctions. Coal is North Korea’s largest export item, and also China’s greatest point of leverage over the regime.

The ministry said the ban would come into force Sunday and be effective until Dec. 31. China said the move was designed to implement November’s United Nations Security Council resolution that tightened sanctions against the regime in the wake of its last nuclear test.

While there are doubts this will change policy in North Korea, it does indicate that China is finally losing patience with that rogue state and its threatening behavior. And since China is one of the few countries that does any trade with North Korea, it is probably one of the few countries that can influence it in any way.

A glimpse at China’s unmanned cargo freighter

The competition heats up: A Chinese state media report just released included footage showing China’s unmanned cargo freighter, Tianzhou-1, as engineers prepare it for its April launch to their test space station module, Tiangong-2.

Two important take-aways from this report. First, note in the simulation showing the docking of the freighter to Tiangong-2 the size comparison. The two craft are almost the same size, showing that Tiangong-2 really is nothing more than a test module, not large enough for long sustained space station operations. The freighter meanwhile is quite substantial.

Second, the report says they are aiming for a 2018 launch of the first module of their full size station.

Chinese lunar sample return mission set for November

The competition heats up: China has scheduled for November its next mission to the Moon, the first lunar sample return mission since the American Apollo manned missions and the first robotic sample return mission since the Soviets did it in 1976.

China has announced that its Chang’e-5 automated Moon surface sampling and return mission will launch in late November 2017. The 8.2-tonne probe will launch on a Long March 5 rocket from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Centre on Hainan island, and attempt the first lunar sample return since the Soviet Union’s Luna 24 mission in 1976.

The mission will be complex, with some of the key technologies and techniques involved will also be applicable for a Chinese Mars sample return mission, planned for around 2030, as well as future crewed journeys to the lunar surface. “The lunar probe is comprised of four parts: an orbiter, a return module, an ascender and a lander,” state media Xinhua quoted Ye Peijian, one of China’s leading aerospace experts, as saying.

Having soft-landed on the Moon and drilled for and collected samples, an ascent module will perform an automated docking with an orbiter in a lunar orbit 380,000 km away from Earth. The orbiter will then head on a trajectory for home, with the return module separating from the orbiter close to Earth and making a high speed atmospheric ‘skip’ reentry.

Without question the Chinese program is ramping up, and it is doing so in a very rational and pragmatic manner. It is also clear that they are carefully developing the technologies necessary to later launch manned missions to the Moon, which could also include sending their first space stations on lunar orbital missions.

Private Chinese rocket company gets launch contract

The competition heats up: A private Chinese rocket company, Landspace, has signed a launch contract with a Danish firm to launch an unstated number of satellites.

The article does not provide much information, but from it I suspect this is a smallsat operation, similar to Rocket Lab and Vector Space Systems. I also think that its private nature in China and the timing of its announcement, only a few weeks after China released its five year space plan which seemed to lend support to the development of a private space industry, provides confirmation of that support.

China’s Kuaizhou rocket launches first commercial payload

The competition heats up: China’s Kuaizhou solid rocket, upgraded from a military mobile-launched ballistic missile, today placed its first three commercial satellites in orbit.

The rocket is designed to quickly launch smallsats into orbit for a reasonably low cost, and is built and marketed by China’s second commercial launch company, Expace.

In the China Daily report, he added that Expace is in talks with satellite manufacturers in Asia, Europe and Latin America, and has bid for contracts to launch their spacecraft. Guo Yong, president of the CASIC Fourth Academy, told China Daily that the organization intends to capture 20 percent of the global small satellite launch market by 2020. The Kuaizhou 1A rocket can deliver satellites of up to 300 kilograms — about 660 pounds — into low-altitude orbits, according to China Daily.

Expace is China’s second commercial launch services provider after China Great Wall Industry Corp., which sells Long March rocket missions, with an emphasis on launches of large communications satellites heading for geostationary orbit.

U.S. wins launch scorecard for 2016

Doug Messier today has compiled a list showing the launch totals worldwide for 2016, showing that though the U.S. and China tied for first with the most launches, 22, the U.S. won the race with fewer launch failures. Russia fell to third, almost entirely because its Proton rocket has been grounded since June.

What I find interesting is that, very slowly, the competing American companies are beginning to compile launch numbers that match those of whole nations. ULA completed 12 launches, which beat everyone but the U.S., China, and Russia. SpaceX, despite no launches after its September 1 launchpad explosion, still beat India and Japan, long considered established space powers, and finished only one launch total behind Europe.

Eventually, I believe SpaceX is going to get its technical problems ironed out. When that happens, the competition between them and ULA could have both companies producing numbers that beat out the national programs of Russia and China. In fact, I expect this to happen within three years, but more likely sooner.

Chinese rocket fails to put two satellites into correct orbits

Tracking data suggests that two Earth-observation satellites launched today by China’s Long March 2D rocket were placed in the wrong orbits.

The two SuperView 1, or Gaojing 1, satellites are flying in egg-shaped orbits ranging from 133 miles (214 kilometers) to 325 miles (524 kilometers) in altitude at an inclination of 97.6 degrees. The satellites would likely re-enter Earth’s atmosphere within months in such a low orbit, and it was unclear late Wednesday whether the craft had enough propellant to raise their altitudes.

The high-resolution Earth-observing platforms were supposed to go into a near-circular orbit around 300 miles (500 kilometers) above the planet to begin their eight-year missions collecting imagery for Siwei Star Co. Ltd., a subsidiary of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp., a government-owned entity.

China outlines its next five years in space

A white paper published by China’s State Council Information Office today both summarized the state that nation’s present space program as well as outlining its goals for the next five years.

In addition to outlining their future manned and unmanned missions (such asa landing a probe on the far side of the Moon, as well as sending a lunar sample return mission there), the overall plan includes developing their entire space infrastructure, from communication satellites to ground-based radar to space telescopes to missions to Mars. It is well thought out, and quite comprehensive. Possibly the most important part however is the white paper’s discussion of how they intend to enhance future industrial development.

The mechanism for market access and withdrawal has been improved. A list of investment projects in the space industry has been introduced for better management in this regard. Non-governmental capital and other social sectors are encouraged to participate in space-related activities, including scientific research and production, space infrastructure, space information products and services, and use of satellites to increase the level of commercialization of the space industry.

The government has increased its cooperation with private investors, and the mechanism for government procurement of astronautic products and services has been improved.

The Chinese government, communist now in name only, intends to fuel their space program with private investment and private enterprise. The overall program will be managed and run by the central government, but that government is going to make it a policy to encourage the private sector to compete and innovate in this effort.

China and the UN open future Chinese space station to international research

China the the UN’s Office for Outer Space Affairs will soon announce a partnership for soliciting proposals from the international community for research projects to be performed on China’s upcoming space station.

UNOOSA and CMSA will work together to solicit proposals for payloads and experiments for the space station from scientists all over the world, with projects to be decided by international selection committees. UNOOSA Director Simonetta Di Pippo, in comments provided to gbtimes, stated that: “We expect that the first announcement for project proposals should come in late 2016 or early 2017. Other activities will be undertaken as the environment for their implementation becomes ready.”

The 20-tonne core module of the Chinese Space Station (CSS) is expected to be launched in 2018, with the addition of two experiment modules to complete facility around 2022. “While the space station is being made operational, UNOOSA and CMSA will prepare to call for technical proposals from entities worldwide for the design of experiments to take place on-board the station,” Ms Di Pippo said.

While open to all, the initiative will focus especially on developing nations as part of the UN’s Human Space Technology Initiative (HSTI) which aims to involve more countries in space activities and encourage non-spacefaring countries space research and to benefit from space applications.

The agreement is a good one, but its goal is not entirely altruistic on China’s part. In the article it is clear they are trying to score some propaganda points against the U.S., which by law bars China from ISS and any other U.S./China space partnership because of their bad habit of stealing technology for military purposes. With this UN partnership they are immediately claiming that they are “more open and democratic” than the U.S., as stated in the article. The claim is a lie, however. Just like the U.S. they will surely reject any international proposals they consider a security risk. They simply will, with the UN’s cooperation, be less public about it.

China preparing for anti-satellite test?

According to Pentagon officials China is preparing for a flight test of a new anti-satellite rocket.

Test preparations for the Dong Neng-3 anti-satellite missile were detected at a military facility in central China, according to Pentagon officials familiar with reports of the impending test. Intelligence agencies were alerted to the impending test by China’s announcement of air closure zones covering the expected flight path of the DN-3.

The flight test could come as early as Thursday, the officials said. No other details of the missile test were available. A Pentagon spokesman and a State Department official both said, “We do not comment on intelligence matters.”

One additional detail: The DN-3 rocket appears to be based on the Chinese commercial rocket Kuiazhou, which a Chinese launch company is pitching to the international market as a vehicle for putting smallsats into orbit.

U.S. and China top Russia for most launches in 2016

The competition heats up: In 2016 it appears that the United States will complete the most rocket launches, at 20, followed by China with 19 and Russia with 18.

For the past two decades Russia has generally been the yearly leader in launches, but recent competition from the U.S. private sector and China’s surging government program, combined with lagging quality control problems and budget shortages in Russia, has had their launch rate decline to third. I also fully expect the U.S. lead to grow in the coming years as a range of low cost new companies come on line.

New Chinese launch company gets its first customer

The competition heats up: A new Chinese launch company aimed at putting smallsats in orbit for a low price has signed its first customer.

In a statement published by China Daily, Zhang Di, vice president of the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp. (CASIC) Fourth Academy, said Expace Technology Co. would charge around $10,000 per kilogram of satellite payload, which he said was less than half the prevailing commercial price. Zhang is also chairman of Expace.

CASIC created Expace in early 2016 as China’s second commercial-launch provider after China Great Wall Industry Corp. of Beijing, which has long been China’s showcase export vehicle for launches and commercial satellite contracts. China Great Wall is part of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. (CAST). Zhang said Expace has already signed its first commercial contract, valued at 100 million Chinese yuan, or around $14.5 million, to place three Earth observation satellites into low Earth orbit aboard a Kuaizhou 1 rocket for the government-owned Changguang Satellite Technology Co.

This same company has more than 10 other satellites slated for future launches on Kuaizhou rockets.

The situation here is interesting. This small company is essentially competing against China’s big space company that builds that country’s Long March rockets. It is also aiming to capture some of the market share of the new smallsat industry, specifically targeting international satellite companies that are becoming less and less dependent on the U.S. rocket components that would forbid their use on a Chinese rocket.

China’s Shenzhou-11 returns two astronauts safely to Earth

The competition heats up: Two Chinese astronauts have successfully returned to Earth, completing their 30-day mission on China’s Tiangong-2 test space station module.

Up next: An unmanned freighter will launch and dock automatically with Tiangong-2. They then follow with the launch of the core module of their full sized station in 2018.

Chinese astronauts to return to Earth this week

The competition heats up: After spending a month in orbit in their country’s second orbiting space station module, two Chinese astronauts are expected to return to Earth this week.

The article provides a lot of details about China’s upcoming space station plans. For example, this will likely be the last manned mission to the Tiangong-2 module. It will be used next year to test the docking of an unmanned freighter, but the next manned mission will be to the core unit of their full-sized space station, now set to launch in 2018 on a Long March 5 rocket, which successfully completed its first test launch two weeks ago.

China’s smallsat rocket scheduled for first launch in December

The competition heats up: Even as they prepare for the first launch of their largest rocket tomorrow, China today also announced that the first test launch of its low cost smallsat rocket, Kuaizhou-1, as now been scheduled for December.

Kuaizhou (speedy vessel) is a low-cost solid-fuelled carrier rocket with high reliability and short preparation period. It was designed to launch low-orbit satellites weighing under 300 kg. The rocket is launched via a mobile launch vehicle and will primarily launch satellites to monitor natural disasters and provide disaster-relief information.

Though this is obviously being touted as a competitor in the new smallsat launch industry, the military advantages of this kind of ballistic missile cannot be ignored. Essentially what China has here is an ICBM that can be launched from a moving vehicle, which means tracking it will be very difficult.

China’s new big rocket set for launch Thursday

The competition heats up: The first launch of China’s new big rocket, Long March 5, is now scheduled for Thursday morning at 10 universal time, 5:30 am Eastern.

The Long March 5 is comparable to the most powerful active rockets in the world such as the Delta-IV Heavy, Atlas V and Ariane 5, and will launch the technology experiment satellite Shijian-17 high into to geosynchronous. At more than 800 tonnes, 53 metres in height and with a 5 metre diameter core, the Long March 5 has been designed to launch the 20-tonne modules of China’s planned space station into low Earth orbit, starting with the core module in 2018.

The countdown and fueling have begun.

China company to launch suborbital tourists by 2020

The competition heats up: A Chinese company has announced that it is building a reusable suborbital spaceship to fly suborbital tourists by 2020.

Han Qingping, president of ChinaRocket Co Ltd in Beijing, said the company first will develop a 10-metric-ton reusable spacecraft and use it to ferry three to five travelers to a height of 80 km for a new perspective on the mother planet and experience weightlessness. That is the upper part of the mesosphere, higher than jets and balloons can travel, but just below the height where satellites fly.

No prices were given. “By 2025, a 100-ton reusable spacecraft will be produced to send up to 20 passengers to an orbit as high as 140 km above the ground,” he said. That’s into the thermosphere, and is high enough to be considered space. “Furthermore, we will begin to use the 100-ton vehicle to perform intercontinental scheduled flight and long commercial spaceflight around 2030.”

The proposal is audacious, especially its promised launch date of the suborbital craft in 2020 and an orbital craft in 2025. Nonetheless, the announcement illustrates the direction that rocketry appears to be heading, reusable vehicles capable of frequent reuse at less cost.

Chinese smallsat snaps pictures of Chinese space station

One third of the way through their month long mission, on Sunday the two Chinese astronauts aboard Tiangong-2 released a smallsat designed to maneuver around the station and take images of it.

The cubical craft deployed from Tiangong 2 on Sunday is about the size of a printer, and it took sharp black-and-white pictures of the space lab and the Shenzhou 11 crew transport craft docked together around 235 miles (380 kilometers) above Earth. Fitted with a 25-megapixel camera and an ammonia-based propulsion system, the Banxing 2 satellite is expected to loiter around Tiangong 2 and Shenzhou 11, and eventually return to the vicinity of the complex to take pictures from above with Earth in the background, according to Chinese state media reports.

The first batch of photos from Banxing 2’s departure are looking up at the mini-space station complex, with the blackness of space as a backdrop. In addition to the imagery taken by the micro-satellite’s visible camera, Banxing 2 captured more than 300 infrared pictures during the flyaway sequence.

This is a neat idea, one that neither Russia nor the U.S. ever did on their stations. Moreover, to provide this smallsat a propulsion system is significant, since satellites this small have traditionally not had one. Testing that system is certainly one of the smallsats main purposes.

The image at the link of the station and capsule docked together reveals how relatively small Tiangong-2 really is, compared to the Shenzhou manned spacecraft as well as other Russian single module stations. Shenzhou is about as long as Tiangong, and though the Chinese have made their manned capsule bigger than the Soyuz spacecraft they based it on, it isn’t that much bigger. In fact, the article says that the combined station and spacecraft is about 60 feet long. Russia’s Salyut stations, which were also a single module like Tiangong-2, were about that long, before the Soyuz was added.

In other words, Tiangong-2, as was Tiangong-1, are exactly what the Chinese have said they are, prototype testbeds for testing the engineering needed for building a much bigger multi-module station in 2020. What is unclear is whether the modules of that bigger station will be bigger as well.

China considers moves against North Korea

It took them long enough. Faced with news that North Korea is preparing for a sixth nuclear test, China policy makers are now considering various options for removing North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un.

According to the Korea Times, Professor Zhe Sun told a security forum in Washington that the Chinese were debating how best to deal with the North Korean leader. ‘Some Chinese scholars and policy makers began to talk about supporting “surgical strikes” and “decapitation” by the U.S. and South Korea as one policy option,’ he said.
Satellite images of North Korea’s nuclear test site shows activity at all three of its tunnel complexes, fuelling speculation of another test ahead of a key political anniversary next week
Professor Zhe Sun told a security forum in Washington that the Chinese were debating how best to deal with the North Korean leader ‘More radical proposals indicate that China should change the leader, send troops across borders and station in DPRK, force DPRK into giving up nuclear and beginning opening up and reforming.’

North Korea has never been able to do anything without the support of China. That China has allowed them to get this far in their nuclear weapon and missile development has been an enormous mistake. That they might now be finally realizing this means that we could see some drama there very shortly.

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