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.
NASA would received $19.3 billion in FY 2016 under an Omnibus spending measure unveiled early Wednesday by Congress. The amount would be $1.27 billion more than last year and $756 million above the amount requested by President Barack Obama.
The Commercial Crew Program would receive “up to $1.24 billion,” which is the amount requested by the Administration. It would mark the first time that Congress has fully funded the program if it receives the total amount. It is not clear exactly what the phrase “up to” means.
Just about every other major program would receive a boost in spending, including the Space Launch System, Orion deep space vehicle, International Space Station, and the Science and Space Technology programs.
“China’s rise as a major space power challenges decades of U.S. dominance in space—an arena in which the United States has substantial military, civilian, and commercial interests,” the report states.
Below are some key excerpts of the report’s section about China’s space program, including an overview, a description the program’s structure, conclusions and recommendations. You can read the full report here. The section on the space program begins on p. 272.
China is eyeing a next-generation human space transportation system to carry taikonauts to future space stations and to conduct missions to the moon, Mars and asteroids, according to a report on a Chinese space blog.
A feasibility study proposes a conical spacecraft similar to the American Orion and Apollo capsules capable of carrying between two and six crew members. The capsule would be attached to service modules of different sizes similar to the ones used for Apollo missions.
The Tianzhou-1, which literally means “heavenly vessel”, will carry propellants, living necessities for astronauts, research facilities and repair equipment to China’s second orbiting space lab Tiangong-2, said Zhou Jianping, chief engineer of China’s manned space program.
Cargo transportation system is a key technology China must master and make breakthroughs to build its own space station, said Zhou who is also a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, the country’s top political advisory body….
According to Zhou, Tianzhou-1 will be blasted off on top of a next-generation Long March-7 rocket, possibly from a new launch site in the southern Hainan Province.
Research on the Long March-5 carrier rocket – to be used to lift the Tiangong-2 lab into space – Tiangong-2’s payload, and selection of astronauts for the mission are currently “progressing in an orderly manner,” Zhou said.
Tiangong-2 will be larger than its predecessor and will resemble the Salyut space station first flown by the Soviet Union in the 1970’s. It will have docking ports on both ends.
“With China’s current technologies of manned space flight and moon probe, we have the technology basis to realize the manned lunar mission,” said Zhou Jianping, chief designer of China’s manned space program.
Zhou…said that challenges and a lot of preparation precede the realization of the manned lunar mission.
For example, it requires the research and development of a bigger carrier rocket and the bigger and more sophisticated manned spacecraft, he added.
Lei Fanpei, chairman of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), have given journalists an outline of the China’s plans for it space program over the next 15 years:
China hopes to put a rover on Mars around 2020, complete a manned space station around 2022 and test a heavy carrier rocket around 2030, a top space scientist revealed Sunday.
A feasibility study on the country’s first Mars mission is completed and the goal is now to send an orbiter and rover to Mars….
The Tiangong-2 space lab will be launched around 2016 along with the Shenzhou-11 spacecraft and Tianzhou-1 cargo ship. Around 2018, a core experimental module for the station will be put in place.
By around 2022, China’s first orbiting space station should be completed. It will consist of three parts — a core module attached to two labs, each weighing about 20 tonnes.
A powerful carrier rocket is essential for a manned moon landing.
The rocket is envisaged as having a payload capacity of 130 tonnes to low Earth orbit. Once in service, it will help with missions between 2030 and 2050, and secure China’s position in terms of space exploration and technology.