A leading figure in China’s space program was in Colorado this week urging joint cooperation with the United States, including human spaceflight, while Congressional leaders in Washington were prohibiting NASA from doing anything of the sort.
Space News reports on remarks by “Lei Fanpei, vice president of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. (CASC), which oversees much of Chinaâ€™s launch vehicle and satellite manufacturing industry”:
Lei said he sees three areas in which U.S.-Chinese cooperation would be in both nationsâ€™ interests. The first, he said, is an open commercial access of each nation to the otherâ€™s capabilities in satellites and launch vehicles. The second, he said, is manned spaceflight and space science, particularly in deep space exploration. The third is in satellite applications including disaster monitoring and management.
As Lei spoke at the National Space Symposium in Colorado, legislators in Washington were approving a budget that prohibited NASA, which is keen to cooperate, from conducting any joint programs with China:
SEC. 1340. (a) None of the funds made available by this division may be used for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration or the Office of Science and Technology Policy to develop, design, plan, promulgate, implement, or execute a bilateral policy, program, order, or contract of any kind to participate, collaborate, or coordinate bilaterally in any way with China or any Chinese-owned company unless such activities are specifically authorized by a law enacted after the date of enactment of this division. (b) The limitation in subsection (a) shall also apply to any funds used to effectuate the hosting of official Chinese visitors at facilities belonging to or utilized by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
In his remarks, the Chinese space executive also highlighted the negative effects that America’s export laws have hurt American competitiveness while boosting Chinese space capabilities and strategic interests:
Lei…said China purchased more than $1 billion in U.S.-built satellites in the 1990s before the de facto ban went into effect in 1999.
Since then, the U.S. International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) have made it impossible to export most satellite components, or full satellites, to China for launch on Chinaâ€™s now successful line of Long March rockets….
Chinaâ€™s domestic demand for launches of its own telecommunications, navigation, Earth observation and science satellites â€” and its manned space program â€” has given the Long March vehicle sufficient business to earn it a record of reliability…While cooperation with the United States has been shut down, he said, China has maintained relations with the 18-nation European Space Agency, Brazil, France, Russia and others. China also has developed a telecommunications satellite product line that has been bundled with a Chinese Long March vehicle to offer in-orbit delivery of telecommunications spacecraft to a half-dozen nations that in many cases can offer China access to their crude oil reserves.
The Obama Administration is currently reforming the nation’s export laws, which it views as being overly restrictive and harming U.S. competitiveness in high-technology fields. That process will require the approval of Congress.