Tag Archives: China

A detailed look at Chang’e-4

Link here. Lots of nice information, including the fact that Chang’e-3 seems to still be functioning in a limited manner, and that Chang’e-4 is depending not on solar panels but a radioactive thermal electric system, similar I think to the RPGs that NASA uses on its deep space missions. (I am uncertain however about this, based on looking at the video at the link, which seems to show solar panels on Chang’e-4. They could be instead panels to protect the spacecraft from the sun’s heat.)

They enter lunar orbit on December 12, and will likely land in the first week of January.

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China launches lunar rover/lander Chang’e-4; Saudi satellites

Using its Long March 3B rocket, China on December 7 successfully launched its Chang’e-4 rover/lander, aimed at being the first probe to land on the Moon’s far side.

It will take the probe five days to reach the Moon and land.

The same day China also launched two Earth observation satellites for Saudi Arabia, using its Long March 2D rocket.

The leaders in the 2018 launch standings:

35 China
20 SpaceX
13 Russia
10 Europe (Arianespace)

China has widened its lead over the U.S. 35 to 32 in the national rankings. China also looks like it is going to come close to meeting its prediction of 40 launches for 2018.

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Electric cars routinely transmit info to Chinese government

The Big Green government: Manufacturers of electric cars design the cars so that they routinely transmit information about the car’s status and position to the Chinese government.

More than 200 manufacturers, including Tesla, Volkswagen, BMW, Daimler, Ford, General Motors, Nissan, Mitsubishi and U.S.-listed electric vehicle start-up NIO, transmit position information and dozens of other data points to government-backed [Chinese] monitoring centers, The Associated Press has found. Generally, it happens without car owners’ knowledge.

The automakers say they are merely complying with local laws, which apply only to alternative energy vehicles. Chinese officials say the data is used for analytics to improve public safety, facilitate industrial development and infrastructure planning, and to prevent fraud in subsidy programs.

Outside of China the information is also gathered, but by private companies. Car owners can opt out, but that seems to me to be the unethical way to arrange this. Owners should instead be asked if they want to opt in.

In fact, the gathering of this data, privately or by governments, without the permission of the car owner, is entirely unethical and immoral. That these companies and their managers see nothing wrong with this is another illustration of the abandonment of morality in modern culture. It is also another reason why I want my hi-tech equipment to be as dumb as possible. Above all, I do not want it linked electronically beyond itself.

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China successfully completes another launch

China successfully launched five satellites yesterday using its Long March 2D rocket.

The main payload is apparently a military surveillance satellite.

The leaders in the 2018 launch race:

33 China
18 SpaceX
11 Russia
8 ULA
8 Europe (Arianespace)

China has widened its lead on the U.S. to 33 to 31. There have also been 93 successful launches this year, which ties 2014 for the most in the 21st century. My count of the number of future launches so far announced suggests that there will be about 110 launches total in 2018, the highest number since 1990, the year before the fall of the Soviet Union.

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China launches two GPS-type satellites

China yesterday used its Long March 3B rocket to successfully launch two more GPS-type satellites for its planned Beidou constellation of 35 satellites.

They have launched about half the constellation this year, and plan to complete it next year.

The leaders in the 2018 launch race:

32 China
18 SpaceX
11 Russia
8 ULA
8 Europe (Arianespace)

China has widened its lead over the U.S. to 32 to 30 in the national rankings. China also seems on schedule to meet or at least come very close to its predicted 40 launches this year, a number that doubles its previous high.

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China still struggling to find scientists to run FAST radio telescope

China is still finding it difficult to hire the scientists necessary to run its FAST radio telescope, the largest single dish radio telescope in the world.

And why is that?

For job candidates, the major stumbling blocks often are financial incentives and research independence, researchers told the South China Morning Post. The telescope’s remote location also may give candidates pause.

George Smoot, a Hong Kong University of Science and Technology professor who won the Nobel Prize in physics in 2006, said candidates interested in working in a more developed setting might think twice about spending a lot of time in an area known for its traditional rural villages.

“Another issue is how much the Chinese Academy of Sciences will influence and direct activities there,” Smoot said. “It is an issue to people unless they have some straight link.” [emphasis mine]

It must always be remembered that nothing in China is done without the government’s approval. For western astronomers, used to having a great deal of independence, this fact makes working there somewhat unappealing.

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China tests its own grasshopper

China has completed its first vertical rocket landing test, using a prototype small scale first stage very similar to SpaceX’s Grasshopper test rocket.

If I was cynical, I’d say that this isn’t just similar, it is a direct steal from Grasshopper. But then, that is generally how the Chinese have come up with their new technology, not by creating it themselves, but by stealing ideas from others and then upgrading them.

Either way, this test shows that China is devoting serious energy to making its first stages reusable.

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China launches two more GPS-type navigation satellites

Completing its 31st successful launch this year, China today placed two more GPS-type Beidou satellites into orbit, using a Long March 3B/G2 rocket.

The article says this is China’s 32nd launch, but that includes one failure. The leaders in the 2018 launch race:

31 China
17 SpaceX
9 Russia
8 ULA
7 Europe (Arianespace)

China has widened its lead over the U.S. in the national rankings to 31 to 26.

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China successfully launches Chinese/French ocean research satellite

A joint Chinese/French ocean research satellite was successfully launched by China today using its Long March 2C rocket.

The leaders in the 2018 launch race:

30 China
17 SpaceX
9 Russia
8 ULA
7 Europe (Arianespace)

China now leads the U.S. 30 to 26 in the national rankings. Its 30 launches this year smashes its previous launch high of 20 successful launches, and suggests that China is going to come close to its predicted 40 launches for 2018.

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Pakistan enlists China to launch its 1st astronaut by 2022

The new colonial movement: Pakistan has begun negotiations with China to launch its first astronaut by 2022.

Plans are afoot to send Pakistan’s first astronaut to space with China’s help in 2022, the country’s Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry announced on Thursday, saying the proposal got a nod from the federal Cabinet at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan ahead of his maiden visit to China next week.

An agreement between Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO) and a Chinese company has already been signed for the ambitious mission, Lahore-based The News daily cited Chaudhry as telling a press conference after Thursday’s Cabinet meeting. There’s no official confirmation of the project from Chinese officials yet.

Last December, Pakistan’s Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman had also said that Islamabad will collaborate with China to send astronauts to space, Karachi-based ARY News reported.

There is zero doubt that Pakistan’s leaders started these talks after learning of India’s plans to launch its own manned mission in 2022. Unlike India, a religiously tolerant capitalist democracy, Pakistan (an Islamic dictatorship) does not have its own space capabilities. To compete with India it will need to hire someone else to provide the rocket and manned spacecraft.

China has said it wants to fly international visitors to its space station, expected to be in operation in 2022. This deal fits the needs of both nations, perfectly.

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Chinese smallsat rocket fails to make orbit

One of the handful of so-called private companies being used by China’s military to develop smallsat solid-fueled rockets, LandSpace, today tried to put its first satellite into orbit, and failed.

The satellite was for Chinese television, but I find the links to China’s military for this rocket too many to dismiss. I initially saw them as direct competition with the new smallsat rocket companies developing in the west, but I got suspicious when I found they all had remarkably similar names (LandSpace, OneSpace, Exspace, ISpace) and that all seemed to be using solid-fueled rockets, most of which were being launched from mobile launchers. Such rockets are almost always developed for military purposes.

These companies might be providing China some commercial services, but they are probably also aimed at giving its military a mobile orbital rocket that can do other things as well.

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China launches ocean research satellite

Using its Long March 4B rocket China today launched an ocean research satellite.

The leaders in the 2018 launch standings (also including Russia’s launch today):

29 China
17 SpaceX
9 Russia
8 ULA
7 Europe (Arianespace)

China’s lead over the U.S. in the national rankings has now widened to 29 to 26.

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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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