White Paper: China’s Progress in Space Since 2006

China’s Space Activities in 2011

Chinese Government White Paper
December 29, 2011

II. Progress Made Since 2006

Since 2006, China has made rapid progress in its space industry. Breakthroughs have been made in major space projects, including human spaceflight and lunar exploration; space technology has been generally upgraded remarkably; the economic and social benefits of space applications have been noticeably enhanced; and innovative achievements have been made in space science.

1. Space Transportation System

Since 2006, Long March rockets have accomplished 67 successful launches, sending 79 spacecraft into planned orbits and demonstrating noteworthy improvement in the reliability of China’s launch vehicles. The Long March rocket series have been improved, and major progress has been made in the development of new-generation launch vehicles.

2. Man-made Earth Satellites

1) Earth observation satellites

China has developed Fengyun (Wind and Cloud), Haiyang (Ocean), Ziyuan (Resources), Yaogan (Remote-Sensing) and Tianhui (Space Mapping) satellite series, plus a constellation of small satellites for environmental and disaster monitoring and forecasting. Fengyun satellites are now capable of global, three-dimensional and multispectral quantitative observation. The Fengyun-2 geostationary Earth orbit (GEO) meteorological satellite succeeded in double satellite observation and in-orbit backup; while the Fengyun-3 polar orbit meteorological satellite succeeded in networking observation of morning and afternoon satellites. Ocean water color satellites have obtained their images of doubled width and their revisiting period reduced. The first Haiyang dynamics environmental satellite launched in August, 2011 is capable of all-weather and full-time microwave observation. The Ziyuan satellite series have seen their spatial resolution and image quality greatly enhanced. The small satellites for environmental and disaster monitoring and forecasting are now capable of disaster monitoring with medium-resolution, wide-coverage and high-revisit rate disaster monitoring. In 2010, China formally initiated the development of an important special project – a high-resolution Earth observation system.

2) Communications and broadcasting satellites

China has won successes in its high-capacity GEO satellite common platform, space-based data relays, tracking, telemetry and command (TT&C), and other key technologies, showing remarkable improvement in the technical performance of China’s satellites and in voice, data, radio and television communications. The successful launch and stable operation of the Zhongxing-10 satellite demonstrated a significant increase in the power and capacity of China’s communications and broadcasting satellites. Similarly, the successful launch of the Tianlian (Space Chain)-1 data relay satellite demonstrated China’s preliminary capability of both space-based data relays and space-based TT&C.

3) Navigation and positioning satellites

In February 2007, China successfully launched the fourth Beidou (Bid Dipper) navigation experiment satellite, further enhancing the performance of the Beidou navigation experiment system. China has comprehensively launched the building of a Beidou regional navigation system, consisting of five GEO satellites, five inclined geosynchronous orbit (IGSO) satellites and four medium-Earth-orbit (MEO) satellites. Since April 2007, China has launched 10 such satellites and has been able to provide trial services for Asia-Pacific users.

4) Scientific satellites and technological test satellites

China has developed and launched several Shijian (Practice) satellites and small and micro satellites, providing supporting platforms for space environment exploration, space scientific test and new technology demonstration.

A taikonaut emerges from China's Shenzhou 7 spacecraft after a successful orbital flight

3. Human Spaceflight

From September 25 to 28, 2008, China successfully launched the Shenzhou-7 (Divine Ship-7) manned spaceship. China also became the third country in the world to master the key technology of astronaut space extravehicular activity, completing a space material test outside the spaceship and an experiment on deploying and accompanying flight of a small satellite. In September and November 2011, China successively launched the Tiangong-1 (Space Palace-1) and Shenzhou-8 spaceship, and accomplished their first space rendezvous and docking test, laying the foundation for the construction of future space laboratories and space stations.

4. Deep-space Exploration

On October 24, 2007, China successfully launched its first lunar probe, Chang’e-1, and achieved its objectives of “accurate orbital transfer and successful orbiting,” also retrieving a great deal of scientific data and a complete map of the moon, and successfully implementing a controlled crash onto the lunar surface. The success of Chang’e-1 was another milestone for China’s space industry, after man-made satellites and human spaceflight, signifying that China has become one of the countries capable of deep-space exploration.

A photo of a lunar crater from China's Chang'e II orbiter. (Credit: China National Space Administration)

On October 1, 2010, China successfully launched its second lunar probe, Chang’e-2, created a full higher-resolution map of the moon, and a high-definition image of Sinus Iridium, and completed several extended tests, including circling the Lagrangian Point L2, which laid the foundation for future deep-space exploration tasks.

5. Space Launch Sites

China has improved its three existing launch sites in Jiuquan, Xichang and Taiyuan, enhancing their comprehensive test capabilities and high-intensity launching capabilities. These sites have successfully launched manned spaceship, lunar probes and a variety of satellites. At present, China is building a new space launch site in Hainan to accommodate the launch of new-generation launch vehicles.

6. Space Telemetry, Tracking and Command (TT&C)

China has improved its TT&C ground stations and ships, and has established a very long baseline interferometry (VLBI) network comprising four observation stations and a data processing center, indicating that China has acquired space-based TT&C capabilities; it has also established a multi-functioning TT&C network featuring space and ground integration, complete sets of equipment and ability to complete various tasks. At present, China’s TT&C network is expanding from the ground to space, and from geospace TT&C to deep-space TT&C. The network is able to not only satisfy satellite TT&C demands, but also support human spaceflight and deep-space exploration.

7. Space Applications

1) Applications of Earth observation satellites

The fields and scope in which Earth observation satellites are used have been constantly expanding; these satellites’ capabilities in providing business services have also been growing and an Earth observation satellite application system has initially taken shape. China has built four new satellite data-receiving stations, enhancing its ability to receive data from meteorological, ocean and land observation satellites. China has also established, based on comprehensive planning, the ground data processing system for Earth observation satellites, extending its ability in centralized data processing, data archiving, data distribution and services provision. China has established centers for environmental satellite application, satellite disaster-relief application, satellite mapping application and other application institutes for Earth observation satellites, promoting the spread and utility of Earth observation satellite data. China has improved calibration services of remote-sensing satellite radiation calibration fields, enhancing the quantitative application level of Earth observation satellites.

Today, Earth observation satellite data has been widely used in various fields for economic and social development. Fengyun satellites have effectively monitored typhoons, floods, forest and grassland fires, droughts, sandstorms and other natural disasters; their weather forecasting and climate change monitoring capabilities have also been enhanced remarkably. The ocean satellite series have monitored China’s maritime territory and the world’s key waters, and their forecasting accuracy for sea ice, ocean temperatures and wind fields have increased greatly, and their time efficiency in monitoring dangerous sea conditions has also been notably enhanced. The resource satellite series have played an important role in efforts to investigate, monitor and manage the resources of land, minerals, agriculture, forestry, and water conservancy, as well as geological disasters and city planning. Remote-sensing and Tianhui satellites have played an important role in scientific experiments, land censuses, mapping and other fields. The small satellites for environmental and disaster monitoring and forecasting have provided critical technical support for surface water quality and atmospheric environmental monitoring, major pollution events addressing, and major natural disaster monitoring, assessment and relief.

2) Applications of communications and broadcasting satellites

China has steadily promoted the applications of communications and broadcasting satellites, and has brought into being a market of certain scale. It has improved its satellite radio and TV network: in 2008 China established a satellite service platform to give every village access to direct broadcast and live telecasts. It also implemented satellite broadcasting and transmissions of China National Radio and China Central Television programs, and one channel program of provincial radio and TV stations, thus greatly increasing the radio and TV program coverage. China has strengthened development of its satellite tele-education broadband network and tele-medicine network, mitigating to some extent the problem of shortage of education and medical resources in remote and border areas. China has also strengthened its satellite capacity in emergency communications, providing important support for rescue and relief work and for major disaster management.

3) Applications of navigation and positioning satellites

China’s applications of navigation and positioning satellites have embarked on the road of industrialized development, and are now developing at a high speed, and important progress has been made in developing navigation- and positioning-satellite applications. Through both domestic and foreign navigation and positioning satellites, China has been applying these technologies more broadly; as a result, the market for this industry has expanded rapidly. China strives to promote the application of its Beidou satellite navigation system, and the system has been used in transportation, sea fishing, hydrological monitoring, communications and timing service, power dispatching, and disaster reduction and relief.

8. Space Science

1) Sun-Earth space exploration

China has implemented the Double Star Program to explore the Earth’s magnetosphere in concert with the Cluster Program of the European Space Agency (ESA), obtaining much new data and making important progress in space physics.

2) Lunar scientific research

Through lunar exploration projects, China has studied the morphology, structure, surface matter composition, microwave properties, and near-moon space environment, further enhancing its knowledge of the moon.

3) Experiments on microgravity science and space life science

Using the Shijian satellites and Shenzhou spaceship, China has carried out space experiments in life science, materials science, fluid mechanics and other fields under conditions of microgravity and strong radiation. It has also conducted experiments on crop breeding in space.

4) Space environment exploration and forecasting

Using Shenzhou and other spacecraft, China has explored the space environment’s major parameters and effects, worked on space environmental monitoring and forecasting, and studied space environmental effects.

9. Space Debris

China has monitored space debris, and given early warnings against them, ensuring safe flight of Chang’e-1 and Chang’e-2 lunar probes, and Shenzhou-7 manned spaceship. China has steadily pushed forward its work on space debris mitigation, fully inactivating Long March rockets, and moving a few aging GEO satellites out of orbit. China has also worked on protecting manned spaceship from space debris.