China’s Long March 5 Rocket to Return to Flight in Busy Launch Year

Long March 5 on the launch pad. (Credit: China National Space Administration)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

In recent weeks, Chinese officials have revealed more details about the investigation into the Long March 5 launch failure last year as well as their ambitious launch plans for this year, which include a landing on the far side of the moon.

Long March 5 will be returned to flight in the second half of 2018, according to Bao Weimin, head of the Science and Technology Committee of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC). Engineers have identified the cause of a launch failure that occurred last July and are working to verify it, he said.

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China Launches Satellite to Look for Signals of Earthquakes

China launched a satellite that will search for signals that could help scientists to predict earthquakes on Thursday.

The China Seismo-Electromagnetic Satellite will study electromagnetic signals in Earth’s atmosphere and ionosphere to determine if they can be used to predict earthquakes. The Chinese-led mission is being conducted in cooperation with Italy.

The spacecraft was launched aboard a Long March 2D booster from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. It was the sixth successful launch of the year for China.

Here is the launch schedule for the rest of the month. Check for updates here.

Feb. 6

Launch Vehicle: Falcon Heavy
Payload: Tesla Roadster
Launch Window: 1:30-4:30 p.m. EST (1830-2130 GMT)
Launch Site: LC-39A, Kennedy Space Center, Florida

The inaugural flight of the Falcon Heavy will send a red Tesla Roadster into deep space.

Feb. 11

Launch Vehicle: Soyuz
Payload: Progress 69P
Launch Time: 3:58 a.m. EST (0858 GMT)
Launch Site: Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan

Resupply mission to the International Space Station.

Feb. 17

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: Paz
Launch Time: 9:22 a.m. EST; 6:22 a.m. PST (1422 GMT)
Launch Site: Vandenberg Air Force Base, California

Built by Airbus Defense and Space, Hisdesat’s Paz satellite will provide radar imaging as well as ship tracking and weather data. The flight will use a previously-flown first stage.

Feb. 22

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: Hispasat 30W-6
Launch Window: TBA
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral, Florida

The Hispasat 30W-6 satellite, built by Space Systems/Loral, will provide communications services over Europe, North Africa and the Americas.

Feb. 24/25

Launch Vehicle: H-2A
Payload: IGS Optical 6
Launch Window: 11:00 p.m.-1:00 a.m. EST on Feb. 24 (0400-0600 GMT on Feb. 25)
Launch site: Tanegashima Space Center, Japan

The Information Gathering Satellite carries an optical reconnaissance payload.

Mid-February

Launch Vehicle: Long March 3B
Payload: Beidou
Launch Time: TBD
Launch Site: Xichang, China

The rocket will launch two Beidou navigation satellites.

February

Launch Vehicle: GSLV Mk. 2
Payload: GSAT 6A
Launch Time: TBD
Launch Site: Satish Dhawan Space Center, India

The GSAT 6A satellite will provide S-band communications services and demonstrate technologies for future satellite-based mobile applications.

China to Recruit More Astronauts

The crew of Shenzhou-10 after 15 days in space. (Credit: CNSA)

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.

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Paging Mark Watney! China to Send Potato Seeds to Moon

Matt Damon as astronaut Mark Watney in “The Martian.”

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.

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China Looks for Commercial Lunar, Mars Participation

Image Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

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.

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China Eyes Reusable Boosters, Lifting Bodies & Foreign Launch Sites

Long March 5 on the launch pad. (Credit: China National Space Administration)

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.

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Chinese Billionaire Calls for Revamp of Commercial Space Policy

A Long March 3-B rocket lifts off with China’s Chang’e-3 lunar rover. (Credit: CAST)

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.”

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China Space Program White Paper Outlines Lunar & Mars Missions

china_flagA 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.

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Is the U.S. Losing the Space Race to China?

Capitol Building
House Space Subcommittee Hearing

Are We Losing the Space Race to China?

Date: Tuesday, September 27, 2016 – 10:00am
Location: 2318 Rayburn House Office Building Subcommittees:

Witnesses

Hon. Dennis C. Shea
Chairman, U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission

Mr. Mark Stokes
Executive Director, Project 2049 Institute

Mr. Dean Cheng
Senior Research Fellow, Asian Studies Center, Heritage Foundation

Dr. James Lewis
Senior Vice President and Director, Strategic Technologies Program, Center for Strategic & International Studies

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China Launches Quantum Science Satellite to Test Secure Communications

china_flagOn 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.

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Long March 7 Makes Successful Inaugural Flight

Model of Long March 7 booster
Model of Long March 7 booster

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.

Long March 7 photo by Pline – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=41264717

China to Debut New Spaceport & New Rocket Next Month

Long March 5 model
Long March 5 model

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.

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China’s Satellite Launch Vehicle Surge

A Long March 3-B rocket lifts off with China's Chang'e-3 lunar rover. (Credit: CAST)
A Long March 3-B rocket lifts off with China’s Chang’e-3 lunar rover. (Credit: CAST)

China is in the midst of an overhaul of its satellite launch capabilities, with the introduction of five new launch vehicles in just over two years.

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