China plans to recruit additional astronauts for its growing human spaceflight program.
China has provided an update to its human spaceflight plans, announcing that a third selection round of 10-12 astronauts – including two women – will take place this year, while outlines of crewed missions to the future Chinese Space Station (CSS) are taking shape.
While the two previous rounds drew on air force pilots, the third astronaut selection will seek candidates with more diverse backgrounds, reflecting the changing requirements for CSS objectives.
“Scientific experiments are going to be a major part of the new space station, so we’re going to need astronauts who have the right backgrounds,” said Yang Liwei, deputy director of China’s manned space engineering office.
China has sent 11 astronauts into space, most recently on the Shenzhou-11 mission last October, the country’s longest by far at 33 days.
While KFC prepares to send a Zinger chicken sandwich into Outer Space AdjacentTM, China has much bigger ambitions for its Chang’e-4 lunar lander.
Research teams with Chongqing University have developed an 18 cm high, 3 kg aluminium alloy mini-ecosystem which will incubate the biological payloads.
“The container will send potatoes, arabidopsis seeds and silkworm eggs to the surface of the Moon. The eggs will hatch into silkworms, which can produce carbon dioxide, while the potatoes and seeds emit oxygen through photosynthesis,” Zhang Yuanxun, chief designer of the container, told the Chongqing Morning Post.
Temperature control and energy supply are the biggest challenges, People’s Daily quotes Zhang as saying.
The experiment will be livestreamed and is expected to contribute to research towards establishing future lunar habitats.
China is looking to get more commercial companies involved in lunar and Mars exploration.
Tian Yulong, secretary general of the China National Space Administration (CNSA), said that commercial aerospace programs had been carried out in low Earth orbit (LEO), but those in deep space exploration would be a challenge, at the Global Space Exploration Conference, which lasts from Tuesday to Thursday.
“In deep space exploration, we need to provide a favorable environment for middle and small-sized enterprises,” he said….
Tian said many Chinese companies showed enthusiasm for taking part in space exploration. In the last two years, more than 10 enterprises have been engaged in microsatellite research and development and about 100 have worked on the development and use of satellite LEO data.
China’s surging space program is developing reusable launch vehicles and the construction of equatorial spaceports to better compete on the international market.
The processes under development include parachute-landing and propulsion-landing, said Lu Yu, director of Science and Technology Committee of the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT) at the Global Space Exploration Conference (GLEX 2017).
Reusable lift-body launchers will be developed in three stages — rocket-engine partial reusable vehicle, rocket-engine full reusable vehicle and combined cycle-engine reusable vehicle, said Lu….
According to Lu, a low-cost commercial medium launch vehicle, the Long March-8. is under development, and based on the Long March-8, a new high-orbit medium launch vehicle should be designed to improve the Long March series and enhance competitiveness.
China will also enhance cooperation by renting foreign launch sites to improve launch flexibility, building international launch sites at equatorial regions, and developing sea-based launch platforms with other countries, he said.
The head of China’s largest search engine wants China to reform its space regulations.
Baidu Inc. Chief Executive Officer Robin Li, whose company is competing with Uber Technologies Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo to commercialize self-driving technology, wants Beijing to take the lead in getting Chinese enterprises to collaborate on research and craft a regulatory framework. His proposal was included among a raft of others he will put forth at an annual meeting of regulators this week, in a wish-list that includes a dream of seeing a Chinese private space-exploration leader — a la Elon Musk’s SpaceX….
Li also lamented the state of China’s space industry. As with self-driving cars, he wants Beijing to enact policies to encourage private investment in rocket and satellite production and launch technology.
“We need to slowly resolve the current complexity of obtaining approvals, the closed nature of the market, the lack of competitiveness and other issues,” he wrote. “We need to attract talent and encourage innovation, to lift our nation’s aerospace industry’s competitiveness on an international stage.”
A white paper outlining China’s space policy for the next five years calls for a sample return mission to the moon, a landing on the far side of Earth’s closest neighbor, and the launch of an orbiter and lander to Mars by 2020.
China will also begin constructing a permanent space station and research and development work on a heavy-lift launcher, reusable boosters and satellite servicing systems.
The nation also wants to expand international cooperation in areas that include remote sensing, space applications, lunar and planetary exploration, and human spaceflight.
On Monday, China launched the experimental Quantum Science Satellite designed to demonstrate quantum communications, which could lead to secure communications that cannot be hacked.
Kicking off a two-year mission, the Micius satellite will test out quantum communications over greater distances than ever tried on the ground. It will help establish an encrypted connection between ground stations in China and Austria with the help of scientists in both countries.
“We have been doing things like quantum cryptography and quantum teleportation, and other things, in the lab beginning in the mid-1990s, and we have extended this outside the lab, with experiments between two islands of the Canary Islands with distances of 100 miles or so,” said Anton Zeilinger, a professor of experimental physics at the University of Vienna. “Now, the next logical step is the satellite.”
The concept calls for an instrument aboard the newly-launched satellite to generate a pair of photons, tiny sub-atomic particles of light. Then a high-power telescope on satellite will beam one half of the pair to ground stations in China and Europe.
The photons will be in a quantum state, meaning their properties depend on the other. Quantum entanglement has never been proven over such great distances before.
Scientists on the ground will use the photons to create a secret key, allowing messages to be exchanged between Europe and China via conventional networks like the Internet. The key is needed to break the encrypted code.
China debuted the new medium-lift Long March 7 launch vehicle on Saturday from its new Wenchang Space Launch Center. It was the first launch from the new coastal spaceport.
The new booster carried a scaled-down version of a next-generation space vehicle designed to carry Chinese astronauts into Earth orbit and deep space. The spacecraft is set to land autonomously in Inner Mongolia after orbiting the Earth.
The two-stage Long March 7 is capable of launching 13,500 kg (29,800 lb) in low Earth orbit and 5,500 kg (12,100 lb) into sun synchronous orbit. The stages are powered by liquid oxygen and kerosene, which are cleaner than the hypergolic fuels that power older Long March boosters.
The new rocket is designed to replace the Long March 2 and Long March 3 boosters. The first stage is based on the Long March 2F rocket that is used to launch cosmonauts into space aboard Shenzhou spacecraft. The new booster shares engines with the Long March 5 and Long March 6 rockets.
The inaugural flight of China’s new Long March 7 rocket next month will be the first launch from the nation’s newest spaceport.
Long March 7 will carry a prototype re-entry capsule for China’s next-generation human spacecraft when it lifts off from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on June 26.
Located on Hainan Island, Wenchang is China’s first orbital launch site located on the coastline. The Jiuquan, Taiyuan and Xichang launch facilities are all situated inland.
Wenchang will be the primary launch site for Long March 7 and Long March 5 rockets. Wenchang is located 19 degrees above the equator, which will make it easier for China to launch satellites into equatorial orbit.
China wants to put astronauts on the moon by 2036, a senior space official said, the latest goal in China’s ambitious lunar exploration program.
China must “raise its abilities and use the next 15 to 20 years to realize manned lunar exploration goals, and take a firm step for the Chinese people in breaking ground in the utilization of space”, Lieutenant General Zhang Yulin, deputy commander of the China Manned Space Program, said.
The paper cited experts saying China needed first to develop a powerful enough rocket to lift a payload of at least 100 metric tons into low Earth orbit. It also needs more advanced technology, including new space suits, for a lunar mission.
China’s space budget is still only about one-tenth of the United States’ outlays, officials have said. According to Chinese state media, China spends about $2 billion a year on its space program, though details are vague.
“It’s our next goal to reuse manned spacecraft. We want to make our space exploration cost-effective,” Zhou Jianping said, as China marks Space Day, newly designated by the government to commemorate China’s first satellite launch on April 24, 1970….
Chinese experts have already built a prototype model to test theories on the reusable rocket booster’s landing subsystems. They have completed “experimental verifications” using “multiple parachutes” supposedly attached to the booster, a source with China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technologies (CALT), developer of China’s Long March rocket series, said.
“The experiment has laid solid foundation for the realization of reusable rockets in the country,” the source said.
Ma Zhibin, deputy director of CALT’s aerospace department also confirmed to Xinhua Thursday in a separate interview that Chinese scientists are working on reusable rockets, although the technologies they employ may differ from those of SpaceX.
“There is of course more than one way to do this … I believe we could see some serious results during the 13th Five-Year Plan period,” he said, referring to the five years between 2016 and 2020.