Tag Archives: China

China to launch next space station September 15

Despite the launch failure this week of a different rocket, China is moving forward with the launch of its second space station test module, Tiangong-2, now set for September 15.

Original built as a back up to Tiangong-1, TG-2 is expected to be identical in size to the previous Chinese station launched in 2011. Having an increased payload capacity, the new station will use its improved living conditions to verify key technologies, such as on-orbit propellant resupply using the new Tianzhou logistics vehicle. TG-2 will also be used to conduct space science experiments on a relatively large scale compared to China’s previous efforts. Tiangong-2 will also be equipped with a new robotic arm and will be accompanied by the small Banxing-2 satellite for technology demonstrations. It will also capture images of the new station in orbit.

Once in orbit China will then follow quickly with a 30 day manned mission.

Did China today have a launch failure?

A scheduled Chinese launch today has apparently ended in failure, though exactly what happened remains presently unknown.

China was early this morning expected to launch its Gaofen-10 Earth observation satellite from Taiyuan, following the issuance of an airspace exclusion zone days in advance. However, it seems the launch did not go to plan. Gaofen-10, nominally part of the ‘CHEOS’ Earth observation system for civilian purposes, was due to be launched on a Long March 4C rocket between 18:46 and 19:11 UTC on Wednesday (02:46-03:11 Thursday Beijing time). China usually releases information of launches once payloads are successfully heading towards their target orbits around an hour after launch. Much earlier, spectators and insiders often share details and photos of the launch on social media.

However, many hours after the launch window passed there was still silence, with the launch timing and location of the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Centre apparently limiting opportunities for outside viewers.

The launch however was not scrubbed, as first stage launch debris was found as expected along the flight path, suggesting that some failure occurred with the upper stage.

Like today’s Falcon 9 failure, this Chinese failure could have a rippling effect on their ambitious plans this fall, including the launch of their next space station followed by a 30-day manned mission.

Chinese company agrees to buy Israeli satellite company

Wheels within wheels: A Chinese company, managed by a Luxembourg company that in turn delegates management of its satellites to an Israeli-based company, has made a deal to purchase Spacecom, a different Israeli company that operates and owns the Amos fleet of communications satellites.

Observers said the deal could meet up with opposition from regulators, including the Communications Ministry. But Pollack said the transaction would be done in accordance with Spacecom’s license terms, which require the satellites be operated from Israel and that the company remain Israeli. The sale would put Spacecom under the direct control of an Israeli-domiciled company called Big Bird, which is managed by Major General (Res.) Ami Shafran, a former head of the Israel Defense Forces communications branch. Big Bird is 100%-owned by a Luxembourg company, which in turn is owned by Beijing Xinwei.

To say this financial deal is complicated is to understate the situation. Though it appears most everyone here is probably focused on making money, if I was Israeli I would be somewhat concerned that ownership of these crucial communications satellites is now going to be outside the country.

I also note the presence of Luxembourg in this space deal, illustrating again that this small European country is very much a big player in the commercial space industry.

China unveils its 2020 Mars lander/rover

The competition heats up: China today released design concepts of its planned 2020 Mars lander and rover.

According to Ye Peijian, one of China’s leading aerospace experts and a consultant to the program, the 2020 mission will be launched on a Long March-5 carrier rocket from the Wenchang space launch center in south China’s Hainan province. The lander will separate from the orbiter at the end of a journey of around seven months and touch down in a low latitude area in the northern hemisphere of Mars where the rover will explore the surface.

If they succeed they will have definitely moved ahead of Russia in the ranks of space-faring nations.

The world’s longest and highest glass-bottomed bridge

Link here. Lots of great pictures of this new pedestrian bridge in China, including one of a reporter trying (and failing) to use a sledge hammer to break the glass.

China’s economy might have a lot of holes and might face collapse, as many experts have been telling me for years, but at the same time they seem to be successfully harnessing the success they’ve had in the past few decades to get very creative. That creativity suggests to me the collapse is not guaranteed, and will not be as severe as predicted.

After 31 months, Jade Rabbit ceases operation

China’s first lunar rover, Yutu (Jade Rabbit in English) has finally ceased operations after 31 months.

The rover stalled shortly after it moved away from its lander, Chang’e 3, but its instruments were still able to gather data, and they did so for about 10 times longer than originally planned.

China unveils world’s largest amphibious plane

China has built the world’s largest amphibious plane, designed initially for rescue and fire-fighting duties.

Made by the state’s aircraft maker, the AG600 is around the size of a Boeing 737 and will be used to douse forest fires and rescue people in danger offshore. Measuring 37 m (121 ft) long with a wingspan of 38.8 m (127 ft), the gargantuan amphibious aircraft is capable of taking off and landing both on terra firma and stretches of water, provided they are more than 1,500 m long, 200 m wide and 2.5 m deep (0.93 mi, 656 ft and 8.2 ft). It has a maximum take-off weight of 53.5 tonnes (59 tons), a top cruising speed of 500 km/h (310.7 mph) and a range of 4,500 km (2,800 mi), and can fly for 12 hours at a time, according to its builder, the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC).

Much like the Russians, the Chinese aerospace industry is controlled and supervised by the government. Unlike the Russians, however, the Chinese for the moment seem much more capable under this top-down system to develop new designs. They say for example that this new amphibious plane already has 17 domestic orders.

I must admit to a bit of skepticism however. Was this plane built because there was a demand, or because the powers-that-be decided they wanted it built? I am not sure. The video at the link suggests to me the latter, with its hard core sales pitch similar to a lot of other government projects I have seen, where the project is built because some politician or bureaucrat conceived and pushed it, but it doesn’t really have a viable purpose.

Japanese military satellite damaged during shipping

Japan’s troubled space effort suffered a bad setback when a Japanese military communications satellite was damaged in shipment to its launch site in French Guiana.

The launch of Japan’s first dedicated military communications satellite will be delayed by two years after a mishap with a blue tarpaulin damaged sensitive antennas during transportation to Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, two government sources told Reuters. The mishap has set back plans by Japan’s military to unify its fractured and overburdened communications network, and could hinder efforts to reinforce defenses in the East China Sea as Chinese military activity in the region escalates.

China’s space plans for the rest of 2016

The competition heats up: If all goes as planned, 2016 could be China’s busiest year ever in space, and could set the stage for making it a major player for years to come.

They will not only launch their next space station test module, they will introduce a new rocket capable of putting about 25 tons into orbit, making it one of the most powerful rockets available. In addition, they are moving forward aggressively on planetary missions to Mars and the Moon, and on the followup larger space station designed to teach them how to transport people between the planets.

While the US is still substantively far ahead in space, the optics can suggest otherwise.

First, China will be launching people into space, which the US have not had the capability to do since the shuttles were retired in 2011, relying on Russia to get its astronauts to the ISS. Next, the International Space Station is currently only funded to 2024, which means the [Chinese space station], expected to be completed around 2022, could be the only game in orbit. Another issue is that it is becoming increasingly apparent that China is developing technologies and techniques necessary to take its taikonauts to the Moon, and ESA and Russia also have that destination in mind.

As the article notes, the private sector is the U.S.’s trump card (no pun intended).

China launches first Long March 7 rocket, recovers test capsule

The competition heats up: China successfully launched its first Long March 7 rocket on Saturday, the first launch also from its new Wencheng Spaceport.

According to this official Chinese report, the test capsule on the rocket also landed successfully and has been recovered.

Previously I had mistakenly reported that this launch would put into orbit China’s next test space station module. That launch is not until the fall.

China announces four day launch window for Long March 7’s first launch

The competition heats up: China has announced that the first launch of its new medium-sized rocket, Long March 7, will take place between June 25 and June 29.

The rocket will carry the country’s second space station test module, and will inaugerate use of China’s new Wenchang spaceport.

Russia’s continuing weakness in space

In the heat of competition: Russia this week announced new space agreements with both China and Europe.

The first describes a deal whereby Europe will pay Russia to use its Bion capsules to launch life science experiments. In addition, the article notes that Europe will continue its agreement with Russia to launch commercial Soyuz rockets from its Arianespace launchpad in French Guiana.

The second and third stories describe a variety of negotiations between Russia and China, whereby the two countries will work together in a number of ways, including the possibiliity that China will buy the same Russian rocket engine that ULA uses in its Atlas 5 rocket as well as maybe jointly build a heavy lift rocket with Russia. In the second article, Russia’s deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin, in touting the excellence of the Russian rocket engine, could not help taunting the United States.
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Next China lunar lander aimed for farside south pole

The competition heats up: China announced plans today to send its next lunar lander, Chang’e 4, to the Moon’s farside south pole in 2018.

The lander of Chang’e-4 will be equipped with descent and terrain cameras, and the rover will be equipped with a panoramic camera, he said. Like China’s first lunar rover Yutu, or Jade Rabbit, carried by Chang’e-3, the rover of Chang’e-4 will carry subsurface penetrating radar to detect the near surface structure of the moon, and an infrared spectrometer to analyze the chemical composition of lunar samples.

But unlike Chang’e-3, the new lander will be equipped with an important scientific payload especially designed for the far side of the moon: a low-frequency radio spectrometer. “Since the far side of the moon is shielded from electromagnetic interference from the Earth, it’s an ideal place to research the space environment and solar bursts, and the probe can ‘listen’ to the deeper reaches of the cosmos,” Liu said.

The U.S. had been in the lead in the land rush to gain dominance in the possibly water-rich lunar south pole. We apparently have lost this lead with decision of President Obama and Congress to focus elsewhere, either the asteroids or Mars.

Long March 7 heads to spaceport

The competition heats up: The first of China’s new generation of rockets, Long March 7, is now on its way to its spaceport for its first launch next month.

The first flight of the 53-metre-tall Long March 7 will take place in late June, according to CASC’s Yang Baohua, and will test the design and performance indicators. The 600 tonne, 3.35m diameter rocket will carry a scaled-down version of a new Chinese re-entry capsule for human spaceflight, chief designer of China’s human space program Zhou Jianping revealed in March.

The article provides some good detailed information about China’s new rockets, noting that this rocket has been designed to launch manned and cargo spacecraft into orbit, making it the equivalent of Russia’s Soyuz rocket. The more powerful Long March 5, set for launch later this year when it will put China’s next space station prototype into orbit, will be their equivalent of Russia’s Proton. In both cases, however, they will be better than Russia’s rockets, more advanced and upgraded with greater capabilities.

The article also makes note of China’s new Wenchang spaceport on the coast, which took six years to build.

First Long March 5 begins assembly

The competition heats up: China has begun assembly of its first Long March 5 rocket, set for launch in September.

Yang Hujun, vice chief engineer, has spoken about the next steps for the Long March-5 project. “After the assembly is finished in the first half of this year, it will take a little more than a month to test it to ensure that the product is in good shape. The first launch will be made after it is out of the plant in the latter half of the year. “

The rocket will be able to put about 25 tons into orbit, making it one of the most powerful rockets in the world. They plan to use it on its first launch to put their next space station into orbit.

China to launch full space station in 2018

The competition heats up: China has announced that it will launch the first module of its full space station, named Tianhe-1, in 2018.

The article also gives an short summary of China’s space plans in 2016:

2016 will also be a busy and crucial year for China. Assembly of its second space lab, Tiangong-2, has been completed and the space station prototype will launch in September. This is set to be followed a month later by the Shenzhou-11 crewed mission with two Chinese astronauts. It will also debut new launch vehicles, the Long March 5 and 7, which will greatly increase the country’s launch capabilities.

Long March 5 is capable of putting 25 tons in orbit, making it comparable to Boeing’s Delta 4 Heavy, the most powerful rocket presently operational.

China grows mouse embryos in space

During a two week unmanned biology satellite mission, Chinese scientists successfully demonstrated that mouse embryos can develop in weightlessness.

The team developed an embryo culture system and placed it within a small enclosed chamber [on the spacecraft] that provides the ideal conditions for the embryos to develop in space. While the chamber was in orbit, a camera attached to the experiment took photographs of the embryos as they developed in microgravity, and sent these images back to Earth. With the aid of their imaging technology, the researchers were able to observe how the mammalian two-cell stage embryos developed into blastocysts under microgravity after four days. Blastocysts are structures formed in the very early development of mammals. In humans blastocysts begin to form five days after fertilization.

The researchers will now compare their space-developed embryos to those cultured in normal laboratory environments on Earth to see what differences there are between the two at both a cellular and molecular level.

None of this proves that life can be conceived and grow in weightlessness. It does however suggest that it might be possible.

Construction of China’s next space station complete

The competition heats up: China has completed construction of its next space station module and plans to launch it in September, with a 30 day manned mission to it to follow one month later.

This single module station, like China’s first, is really just a prototype, preparing them for the assembly of their multi-module station, beginning in 2018.

China shuts down its first space station

Though still in orbit, China has turned off Tiangong-1, its first space station, launched in 2011 and since visited by three manned crews.

The news story, from the state-run Chinese news organization, notes that the module’s orbit will slowly decay and eventually burn up in the atmosphere. It does not say how the Chinese intend to control that re-entry, since Tiangong-1 is likely large enough for some parts of it to survive and hit the ground.

China plans first commercial rocket company

The competition heats up: A Chinese company has announced plans to start a new commercial rocket company to compete for the burgeoning space launch market.

China Sanjiang Space Group Co. is preparing to enter the commercial-rocket business with a launch slated for 2017, Xinhua reported Tuesday, citing the company’s chief engineer Hu Shengyun. Some Internet companies have expressed interest in collaborating on commercial launches, Hu said.

The Kuaizhou-11, translated as “fast vessel,” rocket is being developed by the Fourth Academy of China Aerospace Science & Industry Corp., a major missile supplier to the People’s Liberation Army, according to China Daily.

There is not much information at the link. The rocket was first launched in 2013, but not much has been revealed about it since.

More details about China’s space station, planned for launch in 2020

The competition heats up: The chief designer of China’s human space program revealed more details today about their planned space station in talking with reporters at China’s on-going parliamentary sessions.

Zhou Jianping, speaking to state media on the sidelines of China’s ongoing parliamentary sessions, explained that the project will include three modules, two 30m solar panel ‘wings’, two robotic arms and a telescope dubbed ‘China’s Hubble’. Zhou, who is a member of China’s top consultative body currently in session in Beijing, said the space station will comprise of a core module and two labs forming a T-shape, each weighing about 20 tons.

The core module is scheduled to be launched in 2018, by the new heavy lift Long March 5 rocket, which will make its maiden flight in September and be capable of lifting 25 tonnes to low Earth orbit.

“China’s Hubble” will be a module flying near the station so that if it needs maintenance the station astronauts will be able to do the work.

China’s next manned mission

The competition heats up: The next Chinese manned mission will occur in the fall of 2016 and will have the astronauts remain in space for 30 days on a new space station launched during the summer.

After the astronauts have completed their flight, China will then launch their first unmanned cargo craft, dubbed Tianzhou-1, to dock with the station, using a new medium-lift rocket, Long March 7, which will get its first test flight this coming June.

China’s long term space science plans

This article provides a nice detailed look at China’s planned space science missions, including an X-ray space telescope that will look for the X-ray counterparts of gravitational wave events. They also hope to launch their first Mars mission, which will include a lander, orbiter, and rover, by 2020.

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