Chinese Eager to Cooperate With West, U.S. Less Certain

Aviation Week reporter Bradley Perrett has a fascinating account of a tour that he and an AIAA delegation took of Chinese space facilities a week after NASA Administrator Charles Bolden visited the country:

China is studying a rocket engine with thrusts of 300-500 tons (660,000-1.1 million lb.), up to four times as powerful as its current equipment, while also working on reusable space launchers, senior leaders have told a U.S. industry delegation.

The pace of Chinese launches is accelerating, says Yang Baohua, president of spacecraft-builder Cast. China has launched 11 satellites this year, has two at their launch sites preparing to go and will follow them with one more, making it 14 for the year. Next year it will launch 20, he says.

Yang made the remarks to the first trade delegation to China organized by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics—which was warmly received by the Chinese, eager to enhance relations, even though U.S. law continues to forbid technical ties between the two national industries.

A week after NASA Administrator Charles Bolden visited China, the group from large and small U.S. space companies and academia, and also this Beijing-based Aviation Week reporter, were shown such facilities as the assembly hall for the Long March 2F launcher used for manned missions. Senior officials, headed by Ma Xingrui, president of national space contractor Casc, carefully answered questions and asked some in return—wondering, for example, about the exact status of the U.S. Ares program.

It’s an in-depth piece that gives some great details on China’s path forward on LEO and lunar exploration. The Chinese seem eager to cooperate with foreign countries and has found a receptive audience in Europe and Russia. However, concerns remain in the United States over technology transfer and the fact that the Chinese Army runs the space program there. The Republican controlled House could make cooperation more difficult for NASA and the Obama Administration.