Tag Archives: China

The military components of China’s space effort

Link here. Key quote:

Beijing now has a goal of “[building] China into a space power in all respects.” Its rapidly growing space program—China is second only to the United States in the number of operational satellites—is a source of national pride and part of President Xi Jinping’s “China Dream” to establish a powerful and prosperous China. The space program supports both civil and military interests, including strengthening its science and technology sector, international relationships, and military modernization efforts. China seeks to achieve these goals rapidly through advances in the research and development of space systems and space-related technology.

China officially advocates for peaceful use of space, and it is pursuing agreements at the United Nations on the non weaponization of space. Nonetheless, China continues to improve its counterspace weapons capabilities and has enacted military reforms to better integrate cyberspace, space, and EW into joint military operations.

The PLA [People’s Liberation Army] views space superiority, the ability to control the information sphere, and denying adversaries the same as key components of conducting modern “informatized” wars. Since observing the U.S. military’s performance during the 1991 Gulf War, the PLA embarked on an effort to modernize weapon systems and update doctrine to place the focus on using and countering adversary information-enabled warfare.

What this report makes clear is that while China’s space program might have many visibly peaceful components, it is still tightly integrated with China’s military. Everything China does in space goes through the PLA.

We should also be aware that former managers of their space program are dominate throughout China’s entire political structure. Being a good manager in space has become the best route to gaining a powerful political position.

Both facts suggest that China’s space program will for the next few decades only grow in size and ambitions, for many military and nationalistic reasons. This also tells us that it is likely not a good idea to do any cooperative projects with them. They will not really be your partner, but will be using you to further their own ends, entirely.

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New LRO image of Chang’e-4 and Yutu-2

Chang'e-4 and Yutu-2

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) science team has released its third and best image of the Chinese Chang’e-4 lander and Yutu-2 rover. The image on the right is a full resolution cropped section, with the lander on the bottom and the rover above and to the left.

Just after midnight (UTC) on 1 February 2019 LRO passed nearly overhead the Chang’e 4 landing site. From an altitude of 82 kilometers the LROC Narrow Angle Camera pixel scale was 0.85 meters (33 inches), allowing a sharper view of the lander and Yutu-2 rover. At the time the rover was 29 meters northwest of the lander, but the rover has likely moved since the image was acquired. This view has close to the smallest pixel size possible in the current LRO orbit. In the future however, LROC will continue to image the site as the lighting changes and the rover roves!

These future LRO images will allow us to track Yutu-2 and get an idea of its research, even if the Chinese do not release any information.

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IAU approves China’s proposed names for Chang’e-4 landing site

That was fast! The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has approved all of the proposed names that China submitted for the features at or near Chang’e-4 landing site.

The IAU Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature has approved the name Statio Tianhe for the landing site where the Chinese spacecraft Chang’e-4 touched down on 3 January this year, in the first-ever landing on the far side of the Moon. The name Tianhe originates from the ancient Chinese name for the Milky Way, which was the sky river that separated Niulang and Zhinyu in the folk tale “The Cowherd and the Weaver Girl”.

Four other names for features near the landing site have also been approved. In keeping with the theme of the above-mentioned folk tale, three small craters that form a triangle around the landing site have been named Zhinyu, Hegu, and Tianjin, which correspond to characters in the tale. They are also names of ancient Chinese constellations from the time of the Han dynasty. The fifth approved name is Mons Tai, assigned to the central peak of the crater Von Kármán, in which the landing occurred. Mons Tai is named for Mount Tai, a mountain in Shandong, China, and is about 46 km to the northwest of the Chang’e-4 landing site.

Compare this fast action with the IAU’s approval process for the names the New Horizons team picked for both Pluto and Ultima Thule. It took the IAU more than two years to approve the Pluto names, and almost three years to approve the Charon names. It is now almost two months after New Horizons’ fly-by of Ultima Thule, and the IAU has not yet approved the team’s picks for that body.

Yet it is able to get China’s picks approved in less than a month? Though it is obviously possible that there is a simple and innocent explanation for the differences here, I think this illustrates well the biases of the IAU. Its membership does not like the United States, and works to stymie our achievements if it can. This factor played a part in the Pluto/planet fiasco. It played a part in its decision to rename Hubble’s Law. And according to my sources, it was part of the background negotiations in the naming of some lunar craters last year to honor the Apollo 8 astronauts.

The bottom line remains: The IAU has continually tried to expand its naming authority, when all it was originally asked to do was to coordinate the naming of distant astronomical objects. Now it claims it has the right to approve the naming of every boulder and rock anywhere in the universe. At some point the actual explorers are going to have to tell this organization to go jump in a lake.

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Chang’e-4 & Yutu-2 enter sleep mode for second lunar night

The Chinese lunar lander Chang’e-4 and its rover Yutu-2 have both gone into hibernation as part of their preparation for surviving their second night on the Moon’s surface.

The Yutu-2 rover and lander will resume science and exploration activities on Feb. 28 and March 1, respectively, according to the release, with the rover needing to unfold solar panels and dissipate heat.

The previous lunar night saw the Chang’e-4 lander record a temperature low of -190 degrees Celsius (-310 Fahrenheit), with measurements made possible by a Russian-developed radioisotope thermoelectric generator which also acts as a prototype for future deep-space exploration.

Official updates on the progress of the mission had been sparse during the second lunar day of operations, though some new images and footage were released ahead of the Chinese New Year holiday, which ran from Feb. 4 to Feb. 10.

Yutu-2 has traveled about 400 feet so far.

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LRO spots Chinese lunar rover

Yutu-2 and Chang'e-4 on far side of Moon

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) science team has now released a second and closer image of Chang’e-4’s location on the far side of the Moon, which now also shows the nearby rover Yutu-2.

The two arrows in the image to the right, cropped to post here, show both. The rover is the dot on the right, with the lander to the left, both just beyond the arrow tips. Both are very small, with Yutu-2 for example only two pixels across. Still, with both you can see their shadows, equally small, to the left of both bright dots. With sunlight coming from the right, all the craters, which are recessed, have their shadows on the right. The spacecraft, sticking up from the surface, have shadows going to the the left.

As Yutu-2 continues its travels, LRO will likely take more images, allowing us to track it even if the Chinese provide limited information.

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Chinese cubesat snaps picture of Earth and Moon from deep space

The Moon and Earth

A interplanetary cubesat, Longjiang-2, launched with China’s communications relay satellite that they are using to communicate with Chang’e-4 and Yutu-2 on the far side of the Moon, has successfully taken a picture of both the Moon and Earth, as shown in the picture on the right.

Longjiang-2 is confirming what the MarCo cubesats proved from Mars, that cubesats can do interplanetary work.

And the picture is cool also. This was taken on February 3, when the entire face of the Moon’s far side is facing the Sun, illuminating it all. This timing also meant that the globe of the Earth would be entirely lit.

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China’s unsupervised radio antenna in Argentina

A Chinese invasion? A Chinese radio antenna in Argentina, initially proposed as a communications facility for use with China’s space program, operates without any supervision by the Argentinian government and appears to have military links.

Though U.S. government officials are pushing the idea that this facility is being used by China to eavesdrop on foreign satellites, and though China’s space program is without doubt a major arm of its military, I doubt the radio antenna is being put to military use. As the story notes

Tony Beasley, director of the U.S. National Radio Astronomy Observatory, said the station could, in theory, “listen” to other governments’ satellites, potentially picking up sensitive data. But that kind of listening could be done with far less sophisticated equipment. “Anyone can do that. I can do that with a dish in my back yard, basically,” Beasley said. “I don’t know that there’s anything particularly sinister or troubling about any part of China’s space radio network in Argentina.”

It was installed to support China’s effort to send spacecraft to the Moon and Mars, and that is likely its main purpose. China does not wish to be dependent on the U.S.’s Deep Space Network for such interplanetary communications. This facility helps make that independence possible.

At the same time, the fact that China has been allowed to establish a remote facility in another country and operate it with no oversight is definitely an issue of concern. Essentially, China has obtained control over a piece of Argentinian territory, and unless the Argentine government takes action, China can do whatever it wants there. While the antenna itself might not be an issue, the facility itself is.

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A close look at Russia’s Vostochny spaceport

Link here. The article provides an excellent overview of the spaceport, its history, its corruption. It also gives some detailed information how the spaceport is affecting the remote cities nearby. This quote however is telling:

Across the space faculty and university at large, signs are written in Russian and in Chinese. Exchange students from across the river flock here in droves, and students participate in countless scientific and engineering projects with Chinese students. It is a very clear reflection of growing talk among Russian leadership that the country’s future in space does not lay in cooperation with NASA and the West, but with the ascendant Chinese space program.

Indeed, in the halls of Amur State University, the rich history of U.S.-Russia space rivalry and cooperation has already been relegated to the various rooms set aside as little space history museums. Something for students to ponder and reflect upon as they go about planning presentations for their next student scientific congress with their Chinese peers. Caught between the pull of Vostochny and China, these students have discovered hope for a future of opportunity in space.

This makes sense. Russia’s aerospace industry is in trouble. Worse, any future dependence on NASA’s very dubious lunar Gateway project to save it is questionable. China however is closer, and has a thriving and very successful space program. It would make sense for Russia to switch its partnership from the U.S. to China. Whether China is interested remains an open question.

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China fails to reduce its methane coal mine emissions

Surprise, surprise! Using satellite data, a new study has now shown that China has not only failed to reduce its methane coal mine emissions, it has allowed those emissions to increase.

China, already the world’s leading emitter of human-caused greenhouse gases, continues to pump increasing amounts of climate-changing methane into the atmosphere despite tough new regulations on gas releases from its coal mines, a study shows.

China is the world’s largest producer and consumer of coal, which accounts for approximately 72 percent of the country’s electricity generation. While data show that coal production has increased in China, it has been unclear until now much methane gas, or CH4, has increased. Methane that is released during coal mining is responsible for the majority of coal-related CH4 emissions and is likely the largest human-caused CH4 source in China.

“Our study indicates that, at least in terms of methane emissions, China’s government is talking the talk, but has not been able to walk the walk,” says Scot Miller, an assistant professor of environmental health and engineering and of earth and planetary sciences at Johns Hopkins University.

The truth is that while China might say it has imposed “tough new regulations,” its commitment under the Paris climate accords actually allowed it to increase its emissions significantly for years to come, even as those same accords required the U.S. to decrease its emissions. This unfair situation, which China has apparently taking full advantage of, is one of the major reasons Trump dumped the accords. It also illustrates how little the Paris Accords had to do with climate change. Its real goal was to shift the balance of power and wealth from the U.S. to other countries.

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China aims for at least 30 launches in 2019

The new colonial movement: The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), China’s main government agency supervising its space program, has revealed that they have at least 30 launches planned for 2019.

This number brings the known predicted launches for 2019 to about 125, which I think would be the most ever in a single year, since Sputnik. It definitely would be the most since the 1980s.

The article also has the following information about the problems and delays that have prevented a third Long March 5 rocket launch since its second launch failed in 2017.

A redesign has been carried out to the liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen YF-77 engines, two of which power the Long March 5 first stage, to correct the turbopump issue reported to be behind the 2017 failure. The return-to-flight mission will carry the Shijian-20 communications satellite, or “Practice-20” in Chinese, based on a new, large DFH-5 satellite platform which supports satellites from 6,500 to 9,000 kilograms.

A successful launch would mean the fourth Long March 5 would then be used to launch the Chang’e-5 lunar sample return toward the moon in late 2019. The mission will aim to collect up to 2 kilograms of rocks and regolith from a site near Mons Rümker in Oceanus Procellarum on the lunar near side and bring the samples to Earth.

A nominal return-to-flight would also clear the way for the test launch of the Long March 5B, a variant of the Long March 5 designed specifically for lofting the 20-metric ton modules of the planned Chinese Space Station (CSS) into low Earth orbit. CASC official Shang Zhi told China’s state-run Xinhua news agency that joint tests and exercises involving a test model of the rocket and the CSS core module will be carried out at Wenchang at the end of 2019 in preparation for the maiden flight of the Long March 5B. Launch of the first CSS module is currently slated for 2020.

I wonder if we will ever see the Long March 5 version ever launch again after the 5B launches successfully. I suspect not, as it appears to me that the new variant is really a cover for the significant redesign required after the 2017 launch failure.

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Next Long March 5 launch delayed six months to July

The next launch of China’s largest rocket, the Long March 5, has now been delayed another six months until July.

The second Long March-5 rocket was launched from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in the southern province of Hainan on July 2, 2017, but a malfunction happened less than six minutes after its liftoff.

In October the Chinese had predicted this launch would occur in January, so this new schedule represents a six month delay. This further delay also confirms to me that their problem in 2017, which the Chinese have never fully explained other to say it caused damage to a turbopump in one first stage engine, resulted from a fundamental design flaw in the rocket’s first stage engines, requiring major reworking.

This delay also delays the launch of the first module of their space station, as well as their first sample return mission to the Moon.

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A detailed update on China’s numerous smallsat rocket companies

Link here. Based on this report, we should expect the first orbital launches from several of these Chinese smallsat rocket companies in 2019.

These numerous companies are ostensibly independent private companies who have raised Chinese investment capital. This is partly true. It is not the entire story however.

While the companies emerging in China’s nascent commercial launch sector are being backed by private funds, the firms are also apparently receiving significant support from the State Administration for Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND), a government body overseeing the country’s space activities.

A national military-civilian integration strategy is also crucial to the progress made, facilitating the transfer of required and sensitive technologies to the startups, as well as opportunities to share facilities and expertise. [emphasis mine]

Unlike Russia, China’s government might have decided here to embrace competition to encourage innovation, but we mustn’t forget that these companies only exist because the Chinese government allows them to exist. Everything that happens in China’s space industry is done with the approval of the government, for the government’s purposes. Once these companies succeed, the government will co-op them. I guarantee it.

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Argentinian smallsat company signs 90 satellite deal with China

An Argentinian smallsat company, Satellogic, has signed a 90 satellite launch deal with China.

Satellogic’s constellation seems likely to compete with the remote-imaging satellite constellations operated by San Francisco-based Planet and Seattle-based BlackSky. The company promises to remap Earth at 1-meter pixel resolution every week and dramatically reduce the cost of high-frequency geospatial analytics.

The deal is officially signed with a so-called private launch company in China dubbed China Great Wall Industry, but that company merely acts as an agent for a Chinese government space operation, China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp.

What this means however is that China’s launch rate is going to go even higher in the next few years.

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Update on Chang’e-4 plant experiments

Link here. It appears the plant experiment has now run its course, designed as it was to end before the arrival of the first lunar night.

The experiment’s chief designer, Xie Gengxin of Chongqing University, told Xinhua that life inside the canister would not survive the lander’s first lunar night, which started on Sunday. The moon’s nighttime period lasts for about two Earth weeks.

It also appears that though the plant experiment included potato, cotton, and oilseed rape, only the cotton seeds spouted. China has only released a limited amount of information about this research, so to get further details we will likely have to wait for the published papers.

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Seeds sprout on Chang’e-4

The new colonial movement: The cotten seeds in a plant experiment on Chang’e-4 have now sprouted, becoming the first biological life to grow on the Moon.

On Tuesday, Chinese state media said the cotton seeds had now grown buds. The ruling Communist Party’s official mouthpiece the People’s Daily tweeted an image of the sprouted seed, saying it marked “the completion of humankind’s first biological experiment on the Moon”.

Fred Watson, Australian Astronomical Observatory’s astronomer-at-large, told the BBC the development was “good news”. “It suggests that there might not be insurmountable problems for astronauts in future trying to grow their own crops on the moon in a controlled environment. …I think there’s certainly a great deal of interest in using the Moon as staging post, particularly for flights to Mars, because it’s relatively near the Earth,” Mr Watson said.

Prof Xie Gengxin, the experiment’s chief designer, was quoted as saying in the South China Morning Post: “We have given consideration to future survival in space. Learning about these plants’ growth in a low-gravity environment would allow us to lay the foundation for our future establishment of space base.” He said cotton could eventually be used for clothing while the potatoes could be a food source for astronauts and the rapeseed for oil.

This experiment is actually a very big deal, as it is the first biological experiment, ever, to take place in a low gravity environment. All previous plant experiments in space have taken place in zero gravity, and thus failed to tell us anything about growth in a partial Earth gravity environment.

That the seeds have sprouted only tells us that they can. What we don’t know yet is if the low lunar gravity distorts their growth.

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China completes first launch of 2019, followed by SpaceX

The new colonial movement: China yesterday successfully completed the first launch of 2019, sending a military communications satellite into orbit with its Long March 3B rocket.

It is my impression, from various sources, that China might not launch quite as many rockets in 2019 as it did in 2018. Like SpaceX in the past two years, it was clearing out a backlog of launches caused by the failed launch of their biggest rocket, Long March 5, in 2017.

Still, I expect an active year from China. It is going to be very interesting to watch the 2019 launch race unfold. SpaceX for example has just successfully launched ten Iridium satellites into orbit, the first launch from Vandenberg this year, successfully landing the first stage on a barge.

Right now the U.S. and China are tied in the 2019 launch race, 1-1.

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Want to see a panorama of Chang’e-4 landing site? You can!

If you want a really good look at the Chang’e-4 landing site on the far side of the Moon — with Yutu-2 about thirty feet away — photographer Andrew Bodrov has produced a spectacular 360 degree panorama from images sent down by the lander.

This panorama reveals two things. First, the lander landed close to two small craters, which it thankfully missed. Second, there are some hills in the distance which I suspect are central peaks of Von Kármán crater. They are probably beyond Yutu-2’s range, but would make a worthwhile exploratory target.

Meanwhile, the rover and lander have come back to life after a brief hibernation to protect them from the heat of the lunar mid-day.

Finally, China has released a video showing Chang’e-4’s descent and landing, which I have embedded below the fold. In it, you can see the spacecraft computer maneuver to land between those two craters shown in the panorama.
» Read more

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Chinese rocket company tests vertical landing

The new colonial movement: A Chinese rocket company has conducted its first vertical flight and landing tests of a prototype rocket.

Linkspace…has tested a tech demonstrator reusable rocket similar in utility to the Grasshopper rocket SpaceX used in its development of the Falcon 9 launch vehicle. The RLV-T5 technology demonstrator, also known as ‘NewLine Baby’, for vertical takeoff, vertical landing (VTVL) is designed to verify key technologies including variable thrust, multiple engine restarts and roll control with its flight and recovery tests, according to the press release (in Chinese).

The latest footage, released on Sunday, shows a tethered test which followed three months of preparations. The demonstrator is 8.1 metres high with a mass of 1.5 tonnes and uses five variable thrust engines. Linkspace now describes itself as the world’s third-largest recyclable rocket development team, after SpaceX and Blue Origin.

The article also describes an engine test by a different Chinese company. Both are being touted as part of China’s new private space effort, but I find myself somewhat skeptical. China might have given these companies some independent leeway, but in the end nothing they do is unsupervised by the Chinese government.

Regardless, they are making technical progress. It appears that Linkspace is aiming for a suborbital test flight later this year.

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Using LRO to find Chang’e-4

LRO image of Chang'e-4 landing area

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) science team has released a high resolution image from 2010 pinpointing the area on the floor of Von Kármán crater where Chang’e-4 landed. On the right is a reduced and partly annotated version.

They have not actually found the lander/rover, since this image was taken long ago before Chang’e-4 arrived. However, this image, combined with the Chang’e-4 landing approach image, tells us where the lander approximately landed. It also pinpoints where to look for it when LRO is next able to image this region, around the end of January.

By then, Yutu-2 will hopefully have traveled some distance from Chang’e-4, and LRO will be able to spot both on the surface.

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Yutu-2 has rolled out and has begun roving

The new colonial movement: China’s second lunar rover, Yutu-2, has rolled off of the Chang’e-4 lander and begun its roving.

Yutu will rove within Von Kármán craterand analyse the variations of composition of the lunar surface the Visible and Near-Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (VNIS), while also returning unprecedented images with a panchromatic camera.

The rover’s two offer science payloads, the Lunar Penetrating Radar (LPR) and Advanced Small Analyser for Neutrals (ASAN), the latter developed by the Swedish Institute of Space Physics in Kiruna, will provide insight into the lunar subsurface to a potential depths of hundreds of metres and the space environment and interactions with the surface respectively.

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Chang’e-4 successfully lands on far side of Moon

The new colonial movement: China’s Chang’e-4 lander/rover has successfully landed on far side of Moon.

Early reports of a successful landing sparked confusion after state-run media China Daily and CGTN deleted tweets celebrating the mission. China Daily’s tweet said: ‘“China’s Chang’e 4 landed on the moon’s far side, inaugurating a new chapter in mankind’s lunar exploration history.”

Official confirmation of the landing came two hours later via state broadcaster CCTV, which said the lunar explorer had touched down at 10.26am (2.26am GMT). The Communist party-owned Global Times also said the probe had “successfully made the first-ever soft landing” on the far side of the moon.

No reason has been given for the deletion of the tweets, though I suspect they did so because they were simply premature.

Update: More information here, including images.

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The 2018 global launch race plus predictions for 2019

In 2018 the global launch industry turned a significant corner. While there have been strong signs in 2016 and 2017 that we were about to see the arrival of a boom, it was not until this past year that we finally saw the beginnings of this boom.

Below is my updated launch graph showing what was accomplished in 2018. To put what was done in context, the graph shows all launches by every nation and private company for each year beginning in 1980, with 1968 added to provide a sense of what the launch industry was like during the height of the Cold War space race.

Before reading further, however, it is worthwhile to review what I wrote in my 2017 launch industry assessment, written in January 2018. My assessment then, as well as my predictions, provide some worthwhile context for understanding what actually happened this past year.
» Read more

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Engineers adjust Chang’e-4’s orbit

The new colonial movement: Engineers have adjusted Chang’e-4’s lunar orbit in preparation for landing.on the Moon’s far side.

The probe has entered an elliptical lunar orbit, with the perilune at about 15 km and the apolune at about 100 km, at 8:55 a.m. Beijing Time, said CNSA.

Since the Chang’e-4 entered the lunar orbit on Dec. 12, the ground control center in Beijing has trimmed the probe’s orbit twice and tested the communication link between the probe and the relay satellite Queqiao, or Magpie Bridge, which is operating in the halo orbit around the second Lagrangian (L2) point of the earth-moon system.

The space engineers also checked the imaging instruments and ranging detectors on the probe to prepare for the landing.

They need to time the landing so that it comes down in the Moon’s early morning. This will not only provide better visuals, with shadows to see surface details, but more importantly will give them 14 Earth days before sunset to get settled on the surface and initiate rover operations.

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China launches first of planned 320 communications satellite constellation

The new colonial movement: China today used its Long March 2D rocket to launch the first satellite in a proposed 320 satellite constellation designed to provide worldwide phone service.

The Hongyan constellation is composed of more than 320 satellites, along with data processing centers, and will be built in three stages. The orbital group will consist of 54 main satellites, accompanied by another 270 smaller satellites for coordination of the system.

Six or nine satellites will be launched before the end of 2020 for network testing. The 54 larger first phase satellites will be placed in orbit by the year 2023 and the 270 smaller satellites will be placed into orbits to supplement the main satellites.

Once completed, the satellite communication network will take the place of the ground-based network and allow a mobile phones to be connected everywhere on the planet, either in a remote desert or at sea, according to CASC. The project has drawn an investment of about 20 billion yuan (about 2.9 billion U.S. dollars) for its first phase, making it the largest investment for a single commercial aerospace program in China.

This constellation is essentially in direct competition with Iridium.

This is likely China’s last launch for 2018. It is also likely to be the last launch this year, since the ULA launch that had been planned for December 30 has now been pushed back a week. The leaders in the launch race:

38 China
21 SpaceX
15 Russia
11 Europe (Arianespace)
8 ULA

In the national rankings, China tops the U.S. 38 to 34. It also came only two launches short of meeting its ambitious goal of 40 launches in 2018, an achievement that pretty much doubled its previous launch record.

I am preparing my annual launch report. Stay tuned.

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China launches military satellite

The new colonial movement: China today used its Long March 3C rocket to launch a military communications satellite.

This was China’s 37th successful launch in 2018, only three launches less than their predicted 40 launches for the year. It almost doubles their previous record of 20 in 2016.

The leaders in the 2018 launch race:

37 China
21 SpaceX
14 Russia
11 Europe (Arianespace)
8. ULA

China leads in the national rankings, 37 to 34, over the U.S.

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China launches first prototype of new low-cost communications constellation

The new colonial movement China today launched the first prototype Hongyun communications satellite.

Developed by the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC), this is the fist satellite of a vast space-based communications network capable of covering every corner on the Earth, including the Arctic and Antarctica. The satellite mission is to verify low-orbit broadband communication technologies to be used on the Hongyun satellite constellation.

Announced by CASIC in September 2016, the Hongyun project has the goal of building a space-based communications network of 156 communications satellites into low Earth orbit, at an altitude of 160 to 2,000 km. Each satellite of the network will be able to transmit 500 megabytes of data per second. It will become operational in 2022.

These satellites, aimed at lowering cost, appear to be in direct competition with many of the new smallsat constellations being developed in the west by SpaceX, OneWeb, and others.

The leaders in the 2018 launch race:

36 China
20 SpaceX
14 Russia
11 Europe (Arianespace)
8 ULA

China has widened its lead over the U.S. in the national rankings, 36 to 33, and has likely now clinched that lead for the year. Stay tuned for my annual full report on the state of the launch industry in 2018.

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Chang’e-4 establishes link with Queqiao relay satellite

The new colonial movement: Chang’e-4 has successfully established a communications link with its Queqiao relay satellite.

This success puts China one step closer to its January attempt to soft land Chang’e-4’s lander on the far side of the Moon. Once on the surface, Chang’e-4 must be able to communicate with Queqiao in order to relay data to Earth.

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