Tag Archives: China

China launches two GPS-style satellites

In launching two more GPS-style satellites with its Long March 3B rocket, China today also did their first test of equipment to be used in a parachute system designed to recover the rocket’s first stage.

The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) confirmed the mission to be a success four hours later, following direct insertion of the Beidou-3 satellites into their intended medium Earth orbits (MEO).

The China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT) which developed the Long March 3B rocket reported that data logging and active tracking equipment was placed aboard for tests to determine to altitude and timing for future parachute landings for boosters.

The trial phase of parachute booster landings is expected in 2019. Expended rocket boosters frequently land in or near populated areas downrange of Xichang.

It is about time. The article also included a short video showing the booster wreakage that landed near a town during a previous launch. For any nation to allow rocket stages crashing near habitable areas speaks poorly of that nation.

The leaders in the 2018 launch race:

28 China
17 SpaceX
8 Russia
7 ULA
6 Europe (Arianespace)

In the national rankings China leads the U.S. now 28 to 25. I must add that with every launch China is setting a new record for itself in its annual totals. Previously its highest total of launches in a year had been 20.

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China plans next Long March 5 launch for January 2019

The new colonial movement: China has begun the assembly of the third Long March 5 rocket for its next launch, now set for January 2019.

The article provides the most detailed information yet released about the failure during the rocket’s second launch:

The cause was determined to be damage to the turbopump on one of the two cryogenic YF-77 first stage engines, prompting a redesign of the structure and test-firing in Xi’an.

This is still somewhat vague, though it does confirm that the rocket engine needed a redesign.

Should this January 2019 launch go well, it will allow China to move forward on all of its ambitious space exploration plans, including the building of its own space station, numerous robotic missions to the Moon and Mars, followed eventually with manned missions to the Moon.

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An update on China’s Chang’e-4 lunar lander

Link here. Chang’e-4 is set to land on the far side of the Moon, sometime in December. The article provides some additional details, including information about the likely landing site in Von Kármán crater. It also notes that there are three launches planned at the spaceport prior to the December launch, and that any issue on any of those launches could delay Chang’e-4’s lift-off. .

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China launches smallsat

One of China’s claimed-to-be private companies, Expace, today launched a smallsat into orbit using the Kuaizhou-1A solid-fueld rocket. .

Exspace, like OneSpace and Ispace, is considered private by the Chinese. I find it interesting however that all these private companies have remarkably similar names, and all appear to be doing military work. Even if they get private financing from Chinese investors and their management is formed independent of the government, we should not be fooled. These are wholly owned and controlled by the Chinese government. They do nothing without its knowledge and support.

The leaders in the 2018 launch race:

26 China
16 SpaceX
8 Russia
7 ULA
6 Europe (Arianespace)

China has widened its lead over the U.S. in the national rankings, 26 to 24.

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Roscosmos head meets with Chinese

The head of Russia’s Roscosmos space agency, Dmitry Rogozin, held meetings this week with China, discussing possible future space cooperation.

Russia can’t really afford to do much right now on its own, but it also wants to negotiate the best deal it can with anyone it works with in space. These discussions are therefore specifically designed to give Rogozin some negotiating leverage when he meets with NASA’s head Jim Bridenstine on October 10.

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Next Long March 5 launch delayed again?

There are indications in the Chinese press that suggest the next launch of China’s largest rocket, the Long March 5, will be delayed from its present November launch into 2019.

An online report by People’s Liberation Army Daily, a military newspaper, reports Lin Xiqiang, deputy director of the China Manned Space Engineering Office (CMSEO), as saying at a press conference in Beijing on Wednesday that the Long March 5B will not make its planned test launch in the first half of 2019.

“Due to the failure of the launch of the Long March 5 remote launch vehicle, the first flight of the Long March 5B carrier rocket will be postponed. The specific implementation time needs to be clarified after coordination with relevant departments,” Xiqiang said.

The November launch was to put up a test communications satellite. Should it slip into 2019, this would likely also cause delays in the launch of China’s first lunar sample return mission, Chang’e-5 (originally scheduled for 2017), the launch of China’s first Mars planetary mission in 2020, and finally the launch of the first module of China’s space station, also set for 2020.

All this once again indicates that the problems with Long March 5 were very serious, and might not yet have been addressed, even with a redesign of its engines.

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China schedules deorbit of Tiangong-2 station for July 2019

Assuming nothing goes wrong beforehand, China has now scheduled the deorbit of its Tiangong-2 test space station module for July 2019.

This decision is not surprising. They want to keep the station aloft and operating as long as possible to test its design and how that engineering can be applied to their full sized station planned for the 2020s.

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China’s Long March 3B rocket successfully launches two GPS-type satellites

The new colonial movement: China today successfully launched two more of its Beidou GPS-type satellites, using its Long March 3B rocket.

The rocket launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China, and almost certainly dropped its stages near habitable regions, as happened in June. The question is whether China has successfully clamped down on the distribution of any images of such events, taken by local residents. It failed to do so in June.

The leaders in the 2018 launch race:

25 China
16 SpaceX
8 Russia
7 ULA
5 Europe (Arianespace)

This launch puts China once again in the lead over the U.S. in the national rankings, 25 to 24. Moreover, with every launch this year China extends its new record for the most launches by that nation in a year.

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Second Chinese company completes suborbital rocket test

For the second time this week, a Chinese “private” company successfully completed a suborbital rocket test.

This time the launch was by OneSpace, which should not be confused with the other company, iSpace. As with iSpace, the rocket used was a solid rocket, which once again makes me think it is doing work for the Chinese military, and is therefore not as independent or as private as Americans normally consider private companies.

Moreover, the launch was filmed by one of China’s spy satellites, also suggesting the military’s interest in this rocket company’s development. You can see both a ground-based and that satellite’s view of the launch at the link.

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China launches ocean survey satellite

Locations of two of China's launchsites

China today launched the third satellite in a constellation of ocean-observing satellites, using its Long March 2C rocket.

Though this is the same rocket that dropped its upper stage near a Chinese town in June, the launch came from the Taiyuan launch site, not the Xichang launchsite used in June, so it is unclear if the upper stages fell near populated areas. I would expect so, however, since Taiyuan is located in the middle of China even closer to populated areas than Xichang, as shown on the map to the right.

If the launch went north from Taiyuan, then those upper stages probably landed in Mongolia. I wonder if China has worked out an agreement with that country about dropping toxic first stages onto its territory.

Regardless, in the 2018 launch standings, China now leads the U.S. 24-22. The leaders in the race, with the leading U.S. companies broken out, are as follows:

24 China
15 SpaceX
8 Russia
6 ULA
5 Europe

As mentioned previously, with every launch for the rest of the year China will set a new annual record for itself.

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More details about Chinese suborbital launch earlier this week

Link here. The article really only provides one new detail about the flight itself, that the rocket used solid rocket motors. This fact, plus the overall secrecy, suggest to me that the company, iSpace, is doing its work for the Chinese military.

The article at the link also provides a good overview of the entire Chinese “private” smallsat rocket industry.

China is still run from the top, so any “private” rocket company must have the approval and support of the government. What makes China different from Russia, also ruled from the top, is the Chinese government’s willingness to encourage competitive independent operations, something the Russians has not done. The result is that China’s rocket industry is not stagnating, but growing.

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Chinese smallsat rocket company completes suborbital launch

iSpace, a Chinese smallsat rocket company, completed a suborbital test rocket launch today, releasing three cubesats.

The article at the link is very short and poorly written. It implies that two cubesats reached orbit, with a third returning to Earth using a parachute. This was clearly a suborbital flight

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China launches two GPS-type satellites with Long March 3B

The new colonial movement: China yesterday launched two GPS-type satellites with its Long March 3B rocket.

The leaders in the 2018 launch race:

23 China
15 SpaceX
8 Russia
6 ULA
5 Arianespace (Europe)

The national rankings China now leads the U.S. 23 to 22.

Update: With this launch China has set a new national record for launches in a single year.

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China reveals landing site for Chang’e-5 lunar sample return mission

The new colonial movement: In a recent paper Chinese scientists revealed their landing plans for the Chang’e-5 lunar sample return mission, presently scheduled for at 2019 launch.

If all goes according to plan, the robotic Chang’e 5 will land in the Rümker region, which lies within a huge basaltic lunar plain called Oceanus Procellarum (Latin for “Ocean of Storms”).

A recent paper lays out the scientific significance of this site, and what Chang’e 5 may be able to find there. “Recent studies find that the geological features and volcanic history of the moon are far more complex than previously thought, and many of the most interesting areas have been neither explored nor sampled,” states the study, which was led by Yuqi Qian of the School of Earth Sciences at the China University of Geosciences in Wuhan. “One such area is the northern Oceanus Procellarum region, which consists of very young (<2 Ga) [less than 2 billion years old] mare materials and hosts one of the largest volcanic complexes on the moon (Mons Rümker)."
For the study, the research team conducted a detailed geological mapping of the Rümker region using imagery, spectral and altimetry data.

Chang’e-5 should not be confused with Chang’e-4, which is set to launch in the fall to land on the Moon’s far side.

The choice of the volcanic region around the Ocean of Storms is significant, as it indicates that, for at least this mission, China is not focused on the possibly more valuable polar regions where water-ice might be present for future lunar bases. Instead, they are giving a priority to science and geology with this probe. They likely also picked this site because it is near the equator and therefore a bit easier to reach on this first daring sample return mission.

It does appear however that China is taking the long view. The landing choice here suggests to me that they plan many more missions to the Moon, and do not see anyone else in a position to compete with them for territory. The U.S., Russia, and Europe appear to be throwing their eggs into the basket of (F)LOP-G, which will merely orbit the Moon and eat up resources preventing these countries from planning and building any landing missions, for decades. India meanwhile might be a competitor, but at the moment it is far behind.

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China unveils next lunar rover

The new colonial movement: In unveiling its next lunar rover, China today also announced they will hold a contest to name it.

Images displayed at Wednesday’s press conference showed the rover was a rectangular box with two foldable solar panels and six wheels. It is 1.5 meters long, 1 meter wide and 1.1 meters high.

Wu Weiren, the chief designer of China’s lunar probe program, said the Chang’e-4 rover largely kept the shape and conditions of its predecessor, Yutu (Jade Rabbit), China’s first lunar rover for the Chang’e-3 lunar probe in 2013. However, it also has adaptable parts and an adjustable payload configuration to deal with the complex terrain on the far side of the moon, the demand of relay communication, and the actual needs of the scientific objectives, according to space scientists.

Like Yutu, the rover will be equipped with four scientific payloads, including a panoramic camera, infrared imaging spectrometer and radar measurement devices, to obtain images of moon’s surface and detect lunar soil and structure.

The Chang’e-4 lunar probe will land on the Aitken Basin of the lunar south pole region on the far side of the moon, which is a hot spot for scientific and space exploration. Direct communication with the far side of the moon, however, is not possible, which is one of the many challenges for the Chang’e-4 lunar probe mission. China launched a relay satellite, named Queqiao, in May, to set up a communication link between the Earth and Chang’e-4 lunar probe.

I am not sure what they mean by “adaptable parts and an adjustable payload configuration.” That sounds like they upgraded this rover’s design to allow them to use it to build many similar rovers for use elsewhere, not just on the Moon. This sounds good, but the conditions on other planets are so different I’m not sure a direct transfer of the rover will work very well.

Chang’e-4’s launch is presently scheduled for December.

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An update on China’s private smallsat rocket companies

Link here. The article describes the most recent news from OneSpace (which recently secured $44 million in financing), Landspace (building larger rockets), and Exspace (next launch planned for September).

While these companies are structured like American private companies, in China nothing having anything to do with space is really private. None of these companies can do anything without the full approval of China’s authoritarian communist government. Unlike Russia, however, China, has decided to allow competition to drive its space industry, not central control. It is encouraging small independent operations to come up with their own ideas and to compete with each other.

In the end, they will all be co-opted by the government, but for now this policy is producing for China some real results.

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China launches secret remote sensing satellite

China today launched a remote sensing satellite with its Long March 4B rocket.

The satellite is designed to observe the Earth at high resolution, but little else is known about it.

The leaders in the 2018 launch standings:

22 China
14 SpaceX
8 Russia
5 ULA
4 Japan
4 Europe

China now as a 22 to 20 lead over the U.S. in 2018 launches.

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China successfully launches two GPS satellites

China today successfully launched two more GPS satellites, using its Long March 3B rocket.

The leaders in the 2018 launch standings:

21 China
14 SpaceX
8 Russia
5 ULA
4 Japan
4 Europe

With this launch China regains its lead over the U.S. in the national rankings, 21 launches to 20.

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A Chinese skyscraper with a waterfall

Link here. The builders literally included a 350 foot high waterfall that exits the skyscraper and falls down the building’s side.

A spokesperson for the property, Mr Cheng, told Kan Kan News that the main water source is from recycled tap water, rain water or from other channels. ‘Our building has a four-storey underground water storage and drainage system, from which the water is pumped and recycled,’ Mr Cheng said.

The electricity bill for just one hour of operation is a whopping 800 yuan (£89), he added. ‘That’s why we don’t switch on the waterfall every day – only for special festivities in the city,’ he said. And each time, the waterfall is set to run for only about 10 to 20 minutes to save electricity.

Architects for skyscrapers are getting increasingly creative. They have added trees, vines, greenery everywhere. A waterfall, however, is really clever, though I’m not sure how practical this will be, in the long run. Water falling that distance can do a lot of damage over time.

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China developing a robot satellite refueling spacecraft

The new colonial movement: China today reported that it is developing a robot satellite that would attach itself to satellites that are out of fuel and use its own fuel to make the spacecraft usable again.

Hu Di, the chief designer of the vehicle, said compared with foreign research that focuses on refueling satellites that have run out of fuel, their option is much simpler and efficient. The vehicle will take about two years to complete.

Hu Di is wrong. In fact, I wonder if they have stolen this idea from Northrop Grumman, which as Orbital ATK has been developing a project exactly like this for several years.

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China launches GPS satellite, matches record for annual launches

China today completed its 20th launch in 2018, putting a GPS satellite into orbit with its Long March 3C rocket.

Twenty launches matches China’s 2016 record for annual launches, but they have done so in just over half a year. They continue on track to meet their prediction of about 40 launches in2018.

The updated 2018 leader launch standings:

20 China
12 SpaceX
8 Russia
5 ULA
4 Japan

China now leads the U.S. 20 to 18 in the national rankings.

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China launches two satellites on Long March 2C

China today launched two satellites for Pakistan using its Long March 2C rocket.

Both satellites are for observing the Earth. Both were built by China for Pakistan.

The leaders in the 2018 launch standings:

19 China
12 SpaceX
7 Russia
5 ULA
4 Japan

In the national standings, China now leads the U.S. 19 to 18. China is also one short of matching its highest ever total of launches for a single year, 20, and it is getting there in just over half a year.

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China reveals details of its planned heavy-lift and reuseable rockets

The new colonial movement: At a conference in late May a senior designer for China’s space program revealed details of their planned heavy-lift rocket, called the Long March 9 and comparable to SLS, as well as their first reusable rocket, the Long March 8.

The Long March 9 will be a Saturn 5-class super-heavy-lift rocket comparable in capacity to the Space Launch System currently being developed under NASA.

According to Long, the Long March 9 will be capable of lifting 140 metric tons to low Earth orbit, 50 tons to Earth-Moon transfer orbit, and 44 tons to Earth-Mars transfer orbit. The 93-meter-high Long March 9 is expected to have a launch mass of over 4,000 metric tons, producing close to 6,000 tons of thrust.

…Long explained in the lecture that the Long March 8 would be CALT’s first rocket to attempt first stage reusability, which will launch for the first time in 2021.

As previously reported, the Long March 8 is based on the existing Long March rockets, using a core very similar to that of the 3.35-meter-diameter Long March 7, a new-generation medium-lift rocket that had its maiden flight in 2016, with the second stage to be based on the 3-meter-diameter liquid hydrogen-liquid oxygen second stage of the older Long March 3A. The rocket will also use two solid propellant boosters, likely based on the Long March 11.

Long stated that both the first stage and boosters will attempt vertical landing.

At this moment we must take China’s future space plans somewhat seriously. The upper management of their government is packed with former space program managers, all of whom are likely to view space development favorably. They have also done a good job either stealing our ideas and technology and adapting it, or building their own. And they have a somewhat robust economy, much of which has been privatized, that is generating a lot of cash for their government.

We must also remember that though the Chinese are signatories to the Outer Space Treaty, and will not publicly claim any territory they eventually possess on the Moon, Mars, or asteroids, they are likely to privately ignore that treaty and make it very clear to everyone that any territory they possess is theirs, and theirs alone. I also expect them to devise ways to expand that definition of possession to make it as extensive as possible.

The problem we have in competing with them is that our government seems more focused on creating pork instead of affordable and useful rockets. SLS’s design is cumbersome, expensive, and inefficient. It can’t fly often enough to accomplish much. And though private options that are more efficient and practical are now being built, the federal government seems very uninterested in buying them.

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Long March 2C first stage crashes into Chinese town

Footage showing the first stage from yesterday’s Long March 2C launch crashing into a city has now been released.

The Chinese government issues warnings and even evacuates areas calculated to be under risk of impact during these interior launches, but it appears that many locals stick around to film the event. I have embedded below the fold this most recent footage.

The fuel from the first stage of the Long March 2C is very toxic, so China is increasingly facing a bad PR problem they don’t want. They are using their space program, much like the Soviets did, to highlight China’s new first world status. Images of an out-of-control rocket crashing into populated areas does not serve that purpose well. Expect them to accelerate their efforts to either develop reusable first stages, and to abandon this launch site.
» Read more

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China launches two satellites

China today successfully launched what it called two “technology test satellites,” using its Long March 2C rocket.

No further information about the satellites was released. The Long March 2C is comparable to India’s PSLV rocket, and thus is used for smaller payloads.

The leaders in the 2018 launch standings:

18 China
11 SpaceX
7 Russia
5 ULA
4 Japan

This launch puts China ahead of the U.S. in the national race, 18-17, though SpaceX’s Dragon launch later this week should tie things up again.

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Deorbit soon for China’s second test space station module?

China has lowered the orbit of Tiangong-2, its second test space station module, suggesting that they intend to deorbit the station in a controlled manner in the near future.

Orbital information published by the U.S. Strategic Command’s Joint Force Space Component Command, through the Joint Space Operations Center, indicates that Tiangong-2 has moved from an altitude of around 380 by 386 kilometers down to 292 by 297 kilometers.

No announcement regarding the status of the Tiangong-2 space lab has been made. The China Manned Space Engineering Office (CMSE), which manages China’s human spaceflight and space station related missions, did not respond to a SpaceNews request for comment.

Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, told SpaceNews that, “it seems likely that the lowering of Tiangong-2’s orbit is the first step in safely disposing of it.”

Like Tiangong-1, this module was built to test a variety of technologies required for China’s full size station, planned for assembly in the next two years. Unlike Tiangong-1, they have not lost control of it, so they will be able to deorbit it properly.

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Chang’e-4 launch set for December

China has now scheduled the launch of its Chang’e-4 lunar rover/lander, aimed for the first landing on the Moon’s far side, for sometime this coming December.

They will use China’s Long March 3B rocket, not the bigger Long March 5. As is usual for China, many details about the mission remain secret. The exact landing area has not been announced, other than somewhere in the very large South Pole/Aitken Basin area. The exact date has not been announced, other than sometime in December.

Their planned sample return mission, Chang’e-5, is now set for launch in 2019, “should the Long March 5 rocket be proven ready for flight later this year.”

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Chinese cubesat using Saudi Arabian camera sends back first pictures

A Chinese cubesat, launched as a secondary payload with China’s lunar communications satellite for its upcoming Chang’e-4 mission, used a Saudi Arabian camera to successfully send back its first images this week.

Two of the three images show the Earth rising above the lunar horizon. The third looks down at the Moon’s cratered surface.

These images I think are the first interplanetary images ever taken and successfully transmitted to Earth by a interplantary cubesat mission. Both China and Saudi Arabia should be lauded for the success. It proves that cubesats have the potential to do everything that fullsize satellites do, at much lower cost, and therefore marks the beginning of a revolution in unmanned planetary spacecraft design.

In related news, that lunar communications satellite has now officially reached its Lagrande point.

The satellite, named Queqiao (Magpie Bridge) and launched on May 21, entered the Halo orbit around the second Lagrangian (L2) point of the Earth-Moon system, about 65,000 km from the Moon, at 11:06 a.m. Thursday after a journey of more than 20 days. “The satellite is the world’s first communication satellite operating in that orbit, and will lay the foundation for the Chang’e-4, which is expected to become the world’s first soft-landing, roving probe on the far side of the Moon,” said Zhang Hongtai, president of the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST).

The concept of the Halo orbit around the Earth-Moon L2 point was first put forward by international space experts in 1950s.

While in orbit, the relay satellite can see both the Earth and the far side of the Moon. The satellite can stay in the Halo orbit for a long time due to its relatively low use of fuel, since the Earth’s and Moon’s gravity balances the orbital motion of the satellite.

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China cracks down on corrupt science

The Chinese government has instituted new policies aimed at shutting down corrupt practices in journal peer review and funding that have previously encouraged scientific misconduct.

The country’s most powerful bodies, the Chinese Communist Party and the State Council, introduced a raft of reforms on 30 May aimed at improving integrity across the research spectrum, from funding and job applications to peer-review and publications.

Under the new policy, the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) will be responsible for managing investigations and ruling on cases of scientific misconduct, a role previously performed by individual institutions. And for the first time, misconduct cases will be logged in a national database that is currently being designed by MOST.

Inclusion in the list could disqualify researchers from future funding or research positions, and might also affect their ability to get jobs outside academia. The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences will oversee the same process for social scientists. The policy also states that MOST will establish a blacklist of ‘poor quality’ scientific journals, including domestic and international titles. Scientists who publish in these journals will receive a warning, and those papers will not be considered in assessments for promotions, jobs and grants. A couple of such blacklists already exist, but rarely are they run formally by a government agency.

In recent years China has been the source of many examples of blatant scientific misconduct, from faking data in papers to getting them peer reviewed by non-existent reviewers. This policy change is aimed at stopping this misconduct, and is likely happening because much of China’s leadership comes from its space industry, which requires honesty in its work or the rockets will crash.

At the same time, the policy gives the government great power over all scientific work, and we all know what happens eventually when you give the government great power. While the goals here are laudable, and will likely in the near future produce positive results, the long term consequences will likely end up stifling independent research.

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