Tag Archives: China

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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China offers big bucks to attract foreign science talent

Link here. In China’s recent push to build big science facilities, such as the giant radio telescope FAST, it has faced a shortage of qualified homegrown Chinese scientists to run those new facilities.

To solve this problem, China is now offering big bucks to any scientist, even foreigners, willing to move to China.

On 22 May, the Ministry of Science and Technology issued guidelines that encourage science ministries and commissions to consult foreign experts and attract non-Chinese to full-time positions within China. In a striking change, foreign scientists are now allowed to lead public research projects.

In the past decade, China has aimed to build up its scientific capacity by luring back some of the tens of thousands of Chinese scientists working abroad. The latest measures emphasize that non-Chinese talent is also welcome. Drafted in December 2017 but not previously made public, they are “a confirmation of things that have been going on for a while,” says Denis Simon, an expert on China’s science policy at Duke Kunshan University in China, a branch campus of the Durham, North Carolina–based Duke University.

Simon says foreign scientists are drawn by China’s increased spending on R&D, which is rising twice as fast as its economic growth. Increasingly ambitious big science projects, such as a massive particle accelerator now under study, are a lure as well, says Cao Cong, a science policy specialist at the University of Nottingham Ningbo in China, an affiliate of the U.K. university. The opportunity for foreign scientists to serve as principal investigators for publicly funded programs is a significant new incentive, says Liang Zheng, who studies science and technology policy at Tsinghua University in Beijing.

Of course, moving to a nation ruled under totalitarian communist rule has its drawbacks:

Relocating to China comes with challenges. Gibson teaches in English but needs Chinese language help handling administrative matters and grant applications. Restricted access to internet sites such as Google is also a hurdle. “My research and my teaching regularly rely on access to online resources and search platforms [that are] blocked in China, so this is an impediment to my work,” Gibson says. But he has found workarounds. China shut down many virtual private networks, which provide access to blocked overseas sites, but a few remain. “There’s a saying: ‘Everything in China is difficult, but nothing is impossible,’ which I think reflects the situation very accurately,” Gibson says.

I would also expect that any American who makes this move will face significant security problems with the U.S. government upon their return.

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China launches weather satellite

The juggernaut of China’s 2018 launch effort marches on, with the launch of a weather satellite today.

The article also notes that China will do at least two more June launches.

In June we can expect at least two other orbital launches from China. From Xichang, a Long March-3B/Y1 will launch of a new pair of navigation satellites and China is also preparing the launch of the PRSS-1 (Pakistan Remote Sensing Satellite) that will take place from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center using a Long March-2C/SMA, together with the PakTES-1 satellite.

The leaders in the 2018 launch standings:

17 China
11 SpaceX
5 Russia
5 ULA

This launch once again puts China in a tie with the U.S. in the national rankings, 17 launches each.

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Chinese regulations sends recycling into the trash

New Chinese regulations on what is acceptable recycled trash is causing trash companies throughout the U.S. to send the recyclables into the trash heap.

In the past, the municipalities would have shipped much of their used paper, plastics and other scrap materials to China for processing. But as part of a broad antipollution campaign, China announced last summer that it no longer wanted to import “foreign garbage.” Since Jan. 1 it has banned imports of various types of plastic and paper, and tightened standards for materials it does accept.

While some waste managers already send their recyclable materials to be processed domestically, or are shipping more to other countries, others have been unable to find a substitute for the Chinese market. “All of a sudden, material being collected on the street doesn’t have a place to go,” said Pete Keller, vice president of recycling and sustainability at Republic Services, one of the largest waste managers in the country.

In other words, there is no market for recycled trash. It has no value. No one wants it. Thus, even though it sounds good and allows people to make believe they are saving the environment by recycling, it is an inefficient waste of resources, as the article notes:

Recycling companies “used to get paid” by selling off recyclable materials, said Peter Spendelow, a policy analyst for the Department of Environmental Quality in Oregon. “Now they’re paying to have someone take it away.”

In some places, including parts of Idaho, Maine and Pennsylvania, waste managers are continuing to recycle but are passing higher costs on to customers, or are considering doing so. “There are some states and some markets where mixed paper is at a negative value,” said Brent Bell, vice president of recycling at Waste Management, which handles 10 million tons of recycling per year. “We’ll let our customers make that decision, if they’d like to pay more and continue to recycle or to pay less and have it go to landfill.”

Economic realities always rule. The problem is when people create fantasies that have no connection with those rules.

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China offers its space station to the UN

The United Nations and China have signed an agreement whereby UN member nations can apply to run experiments on China’s space station, due to become operational in the 2020s.

The UN press release states that it is especially interested in applications from developing nations.

This isn’t a surprise. China is following the approach of the Soviet Union under Leonid Brezhnev during the 1970s and 1980s, using its space station program to generate positive international propaganda. This will also give them an opportunity to obtain technology ideas from other nations.

At the same time, this will force China to become more open with other nations, a side effect of Brezhnev’s space station program that was not expected or even wanted by the Russians at the time.

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China loses contact with one of two lunar cubesats

China has lost contact with one of the two test cubesats that were launched to the moon with their Queqiao Chang’e-4 communications satellite.

Though they continue to receive telemetry from one cubesat, without the second they will be unable to do the radio astronomy and interferometry experiments planned.

The interferometry experiments would have seen the observations made simultaneously by the DSLWP/Longjiang microsatellites to be combined. The test would be verification of technology for a constellation of small, low-frequency radio astronomy satellites that would emulate a telescope with a size equal to the maximum separation between the satellites.

The Chang’e-4 mission could however see some interferometry tests carried out, with Queqiao carrying the Netherlands-China Low-frequency Explorer (NCLE) astronomy instrument, and a Low Frequency Spectrometer (LFS) on the Chang’e-4 lander, which is expected to launch in November or December, following testing of Queqiao.

All is not lost. The cubesat that still functions has a camera, built in Saudi Arabia, and if it takes and successfully transmits any pictures this will be a cubesat landmark, the first interplanetary images ever taken by a cubesat.

Meanwhile, Queqiao Change’-4 is working as expected, laying the ground work for the launch of the Chang’e-4 lander later this year.

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China’s lunar communications satellite eases into position

China’s lunar communications satellite Queqiao Chang’e-4 successfully fired its engines during a lunar fly-by yesterday.

The maneuver sends the spacecraft into position in one of the Lagrange points beyond the Moon, where it can relay data from the yet-to-be launched Chang’e-4 lander.

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China, the Moon, and the Outer Space Treaty

Link here. The article speaks to the problems of sovereignty, ownership, and political borders created by the language of Outer Space Treaty, specifically illustrated now by China’s newest effort to put a lander on the far side of the Moon.

[This] pioneering space travel has raised concern that China is also interested in the tiny spots on the moon that never go dark, the polar peaks of eternal light. Those peaks are vanishingly small, occupying one-one hundred billionth of the lunar surface − roughly equivalent to three sheets of NHL ice on Earth. But their near-ceaseless sunshine gives them great value as a source of solar energy, to power everything from scientific experiments to mining operations.

Their small size could also, scientists have argued, allow one country to take sole occupancy of this unique real estate without falling afoul of the Outer Space Treaty. That agreement stipulates that no state can exert sovereignty in outer space. But it also calls on countries “to avoid interference” with equipment installed by others.

That provides a loophole of sorts, researchers say. The installation of very sensitive equipment on the peaks of eternal light, such as a radio telescope − a 100-metre long uncovered wire used to study transmissions from the sun, and deeper corners of the universe − could use up much of the available space while also providing a rationale to bar others from the area on the grounds that the telescope is too sensitive to be disturbed.

“Effectively a single wire could co-opt one of the most valuable pieces of territory on the moon into something approaching real estate, giving the occupant a good deal of leverage even if their primary objective was not scientific inquiry,” researchers from Harvard University, King’s College London and Georg-August Universitat Gottingen wrote in a 2015 paper.

Because the Outer Space Treaty outlaws any nation from claiming territory, it provides no method for any nation, or private company, to establish its borders or property rights. To protect what they own nations are therefore will be forced to create their own rules, willy-nilly, such as the one speculated above. And when they disagree, only the use of force will be available to either defend or defy these arbitrary rules.

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China launches two test cubesats to the Moon

The launch this week of a Chinese communications relay satellite to be used for its Chang’e-4 lunar lander also included the launch of two test cubesats designed to test such satellites in interplanetary space.

One of the two Longjiang (‘dragon river’) microsatellites that launched with Queqiao but set to operate together in lunar orbit, carries an optical microcamera (Arabic) developed by the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) of Saudi Arabia.

The instrument weighs around 630 g and is capable providing images of the Moon with a resolution of 38 m per pixel at a perilune of 300 km and 88 m per pixel at the expected apolune of 9, 000 km away the lunar surface.

The Longjiang-1 and -2 satellites, developed by Harbin Institute of Technology (HIT) in Northeast China, will test low-frequency astronomy and space-based interferometry in lunar orbit. However, they also carry amateur radio payloads, meaning amateurs can send commands to take and download an image of the Moon using the KACST camera.

It seems that China is trying to compete with the U.S. in the development of interplanetary cubesats. The inclusion of an instrument developed in Saudi Arabia is also another indication that the new colonial movement in space continues to pick up steam.

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China launches communications relay satellite for upcoming lunar mission

China successfully launched a satellite in the early hours this morning designed to relay communications between the Earth and an upcoming lunar lander aimed for the Moon’s far side.

The landing site for this mission is expected to be the Von Kármán crater in the South Pole-Aitken Basin. If successful, this will be the first spacecraft to land on the far side of the Moon.

As such, a communication relay will be required to communicate with Earth. Queqiao [the communication satellite’s name] will provide that role. Launched to an eventual L2 Halo Orbit (Earth-Moon L2 Lagrange Point), the satellite will have a lifetime of five years, covering both this and potentially another Chang’e mission.

The spacecraft is based on the CAST100 small satellite platform, with commonality to the often used DFHSat system that finds its way on to a number of Chinese spacecraft. It has a mass of 425kg and uses a hydrazine propulsion system. It will transmit telemetry back to Earth via its S-band antenna, while X-band data will provide the communication path between the lander and rover.

This Chinese lander could also be the first to confirm the existence of water ice on the lunar surface.

With this launch China once again ties the U.S. in launches for 2018. The leaders:

15 China
9 SpaceX
5 Russia
5 ULA

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“Private” Chinese company successfully completes 1st suborbital launch

A Chinese company has successfully completed its 1st suborbital launch of a test rocket aimed at the smallsat market.

The news reports from China tout this company as private and commercial, and that might be so, but then there’s this:

China opened its space sector to private capital around 2015 and encouraged technology sharing through a civil-military integration reform policy, and the impacts are now becoming apparent.

OneSpace itself has received support from the State Administration for Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence (SASTIND), and has raised 500 million yuan (US$77.6m) through finance rounds, according to Tencent Technology.

The company might be called private, but it is also under the thumb of the Chinese government, which at any time can take it over or shut it down. At the moment the government is supporting its development, probably in the hope that China can grab some of the market of the smallsat boom expected in the next decade.

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The cave dwellers of China

Even as China tries to make them move out, the ethnic Miao villagers that have built homes and lived inside a cave for the past century or so refuse to leave.

Why? This explains it:

A cottage industry has popped up in which the cave dwellers earn extra money by renting out rooms in their homes, which over time have clustered within Zhong cave, a limestone cavern big enough to hold four American football fields. The hangar-like cave is so large that their wooden or bamboo-made residences form a small, subterranean village built along its undulating walls.

…Officials say that residents have not taken care of the cave, leaving it unsuitable for inhabitation, and that the government should oversee the village as it is listed as a protected community by the Getu River Tourism Administration, a local agency. They have offered each resident 60,000 renminbi, or approximately $9,500, to leave.

Only five families have agreed to move. The remaining 18 families have held on stubbornly to their homes inside the cave. They say that the new homes are too small, that they fear losing access to their land, and that they alone, because of their historical connection to the cave, should have the right to independently control its small tourism economy.

The Chinese government is simply not offering them enough to leave. And should they leave, I would expect the villagers to come out on the raw end of the deal, while the cave itself, no longer protected by their presence and financial self-interest to preserve it, will also suffer.

Hat tip Willi Kusche.

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China launches Earth observation satellite

China’s Long March 4C rocket today launched an Earth observation remote sensing satellite.

I think I need to put together an outline of all of China’s operational rockets. The 4C appears to be similar to the 4B, but knowing how it differs from their other rockets, and why they have each, would be helpful information.

The leaders in the 2018 launch standings:

14 China
8 SpaceX
5 Russia
5 ULA

China has once again pulled ahead of the U.S., 14-13, in the national standings.

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China’s Long March 3B rocket puts communications satellite in orbit

China successfully placed a communications satellite into orbit yesterday using its Long March 3B rocket, that country’s second most powerful rocket.

The article says that the Long March 3B is China’s most powerful rocket, but I think this is based on the assumption that the Long March 5 is not yet operational. Since the 5 has had one successful launch, I am counting it as the most powerful, with the 3B second.

The updated leader list for the 2018 launch standings:

13 China
8 SpaceX
5 Russia
4 ULA.

China now leads the U.S. 13 to 12 in the national rankings. I expect these numbers to change a lot in May.

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