Reports indicate that the launch will take place on Saturday afternoon. The crew will spend two days to reach the Tiangong-1 space station and 10 days on board. China will send its first female astronaut into space on this flight.The space station is about half the size of the Soviet Salyut facilities launched during the 1970s.
The Defense Department’s annual report to Congress, “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2012,” includes an interesting section on that nation’s rapidly growing space program. The report finds progress across a broad range of areas from human spaceflight to global positioning systems and capabilities for disable foreign military satellites. It also cautions that the Chinese are facing issues with reliability due to a surging launch rate.
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.
As the Chinese space program has grown more powerful, the nation is steadily increasing its bilateral and multilateral cooperation with other nations and international bodies. A white paper on China’s space program released by the government today provides a summary of some of the more prominent cooperative activities.
Although China’s international outreach does not seem to be as broad as NASA’s activities, the emerging space power has forged links with most of the world’s major space powers, including Russia, ESA and individual European nations. It also has bilateral agreements with Brazil, Ukraine and Venezuela.
Cooperation with the United States has been frozen because of a Congressional ban on any such discussions. The restriction remains in place in the current budget, but the law includes a provision allowing discussions to go forward if NASA can certify that there is not a threat of revealing sensitive security information.
Excerpts from the white paper follow after the break.
Now that China has its Tiangong-1 space station in orbit, the rising space power has a great bargaining chip for concluding cooperative agreements with other nations. This week, China signed a deal with Italy that could see the Italians helping to build future Chinese space stations and flying their astronauts to them.
For some reason, the lyrics to “The Flintstones” instantly flashed through my head when I read this:
Frustrated that White House officials have ignored congressional language curtailing scientific collaborations with China, legislators have decided to get their attention through a 32% cut in the tiny budget of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).
I’m not sure why I immediately thought of Fred, Barney, Betty and whatshername? Maybe it’s my sense that the Republicans in Congress form some sort of “modern Stone Age family” with rocks in their heads instead of brains. And that they have some sort of innate aversion to the type of serious science that tells us that people and dinosaurs didn’t really walk the Earth at the same time. Not all Republicans, mind you. Just enough of them to have influence over vital national policies. And that even a single member with that type of power is one too many.
As the 50th anniversary of the first human spaceflight approaches. Russia and China are laying out their plans for human missions to the Moon and beyond. They are similar in schedule if somewhat different in scope, with Russia seeing international cooperation as the key while China weights building a monster rocket capable of lifting 130 metric tons into orbit.
House Republicans have decided that they, rather than President Barack Obama, should run foreign policy as it relates to NASA’s international outreach efforts. House appropriators have inserted a provision into a proposed continuing resolution to fund that government that prohibits any joint cooperation between NASA and China on space. (more…)
President Barack Obama of the United States of America President Hu Jintao of the Peopleâ€™s Republic of China
10.Â The United States and China agreed to take specific actions to deepen dialogue and exchanges in the field of space.Â The United States invited a Chinese delegation to visit NASA headquarters and other appropriate NASA facilities in 2011 to reciprocate for the productive visit of the U.S. NASA Administrator to China in 2010.Â The two sides agreed to continue discussions on opportunities for practical future cooperation in the space arena, based on principles of transparency, reciprocity, and mutual benefit.
11.Â The United States and China acknowledged the accomplishments under the bilateral Agreement on Cooperation in Science and Technology, one of the longest-standing bilateral agreements between the two countries, and welcomed the signing of its extension.Â The United States and China will continue to cooperate in such diverse areas as agriculture, health, energy, environment, fisheries, student exchanges, and technological innovation in order to advance mutual well-being.
China is advancing its space capabilities by developing staged combustion, an engine technology that is likely to offer greater performance for the Long March 6 and 7, two of a family of launchers that the country will field around the middle of the decade.
The smaller of the two, the Long March 6, may be the first to go into service, beating the flagship third member of the family, the Long March 5 heavy launcher.
A new 18-metric-ton-thrust engine â€œis a high-altitude liquid oxygen and kerosene engine with a staged combustion cycle and has been indigenously designed by China,â€ says national space contractor CASC.
If successfully executed, this technology would offer a high specific impulse, a key measure of rocket performance that compares the duration and level of thrust with the mass of fuel consumed in generating it. The practical result should be a greater payload to orbit for a launcher of a given size. The improved performance will probably be essential for Chinaâ€™s next generation of launchers to be competitive as the technology becomes increasingly common in the future.
Space: a frontier too far for US-China cooperation Reuters
The prospects for cooperation between the United States and China in space are fading even as proponents say working together in the heavens could help build bridges in often-testy relations on Earth.
The idea of joint ventures in space, including spacewalks, explorations and symbolic “feel good” projects, have been floated from time to time by leaders on both sides.
Efforts have gone nowhere over the past decade, swamped by economic, diplomatic and security tensions, despite a 2009 attempt by President Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao, to kick-start the bureaucracies.
U.S. domestic politics make the issue unlikely to advance when Obama hosts Hu at the White House on Jan. 19.
Aviation Week was able to talk to press-shy NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, who says that NASA is taking a slow approach to cooperation with China and a list of proposed joint projects with the Russians:
Bolden suggested space cooperation has been subsumed in larger financial issues that will be addressed when Chinese President Hu Jintao visits the U.S. in January, with the Executive Office of the President, the White House science office and the National Security Council working to coordinate a bilateral space meeting through the State Department.
Similarly, [Roscosmos Head Anatoly] Permanovâ€™s [sic] list of possible new space ventures with NASA, including development of a nuclear propulsion system, joint missions to low lunar orbit and asteroids, and a robotic landing on Mercury, is going nowhere fast. The Russian space leader presented the list at a Nov. 18 meeting of the bilateral Space Cooperation Working Group, but Bolden says the most substantive work involved protocols for future meetings. The U.S. hopes to use the list of possible bilateral projects as a way to encourage Russia to take a more active role in the multilateral working group coordinating long-term space exploration plans.
â€œIf the international partners think itâ€™s worthwhile, we the United States would be more than happy to do a bilateral effort with the Russians, but we wanted that to be international instead of just the United States and Russia deciding something off on the side.â€
In order to accomplish these objectives, Russian and Chinese experts have to work hard. One of the key points in the joint work is launch of Russian Phobos-Grunt mission [Phobos sample return] and Chinese Inkho-1 [a Martian sub-satellite]. More advanced projects are ahead.
Roscosmos Head Anatoly Perminov and CNCA Administrator Chang Kuifa exchanged their opinions on several topics.Â CNCA representatives will visit some Roscosmos companies.
Space News has obtained the transcript of an all-hands meeting that NASA Administrator Charles Bolden held at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville this week. Bolden covered a range of topics, including his recent trip to China. The most interesting remarks on China included the following:
“My final night there, I met with the big head of their human space flight program…He introduced the conversation and he said theyâ€™re going to be very candid. We donâ€™t need you. We donâ€™t need the United States, and you donâ€™t need us. But the potential, if we choose to work together, is incredible. I thought that spoke volumes. Very, very candid. And they donâ€™t. They donâ€™t need us,and we donâ€™t need them.”
Bolden’s full remarks concerning China are reproduced after the break. Space News‘ in-depth story about U.S.-Chinese cooperation is here.