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Full text: China's Space Program: A 2021 Perspective

White Paper
The State Council Information Office of the People's Republic of China published a white paper titled "China's Space Program: A 2021 Perspective" on Friday.

XinhuaUpdated:  January 28, 2022

II. Development of Space Technology and Systems

China's space industry serves its major strategic needs, and targets cutting-edge technology that leads the world. Spearheaded by the major space projects, the country has accelerated research into core technologies, stepped up their application, and redoubled its efforts to develop space technology and systems. As a result, China's capacity to enter and return from space, and its ability to engage in space exploration, utilization and governance have grown markedly along a sustainable path.

1. Space Transport System

From 2016 to December 2021, 207 launch missions were completed, including 183 by the Long March carrier rocket series. The total launch attempts exceeded 400.

The Long March carrier rockets are being upgraded towards non-toxic and pollution-free launch, and they are becoming smarter boosted by modular technology. The Long March-5 and Long March-5B carrier rockets have been employed for regular launches; Long March-8 and Long March-7A have made their maiden flights, with increased payload capacity.

China now provides a variety of launch vehicle services. The Long March-11 carrier rocket has achieved commercial launch from the sea; the Smart Dragon-1, Kuaizhou-1A, Hyperbola-1, CERES-1 and other commercial vehicles have been successfully launched; successful demonstration flight tests on reusable launch vehicles have been carried out.

In the next five years, China will continue to improve the capacity and performance of its space transport system, and move faster to upgrade launch vehicles. It will further expand the launch vehicle family, send into space new-generation manned carrier rockets and high-thrust solid-fuel carrier rockets, and speed up the R&D of heavy-lift launch vehicles. It will continue to strengthen research into key technologies for reusable space transport systems, and conduct test flights accordingly. In response to the growing need for regular launches, China will develop new rocket engines, combined cycle propulsion, and upper stage technologies to improve its capacity to enter and return from space, and make space entry and exit more efficient.

2. Space Infrastructure

(1) Satellite remote-sensing system

The space-based section of the China High-resolution Earth Observation System has been largely completed, enabling high-spatial-resolution, high-temporal-resolution and high-spectrum-resolution earth observation. China now provides improved land observation services, having launched the Ziyuan-3 03 earth resources satellite, the Huanjing Jianzai-2A/2B satellites for environmental disaster management, a high-resolution multi-mode imaging satellite, a hyper-spectral observation satellite, and a number of commercial remote-sensing satellites.

In ocean observation, China is now able to view multiple indexes of contiguous waters around the globe on all scales, with high-resolution images from the Haiyang-1C/1D satellites and the Haiyang-2B/2C/2D satellites.

China's ability to observe the global atmosphere has achieved a significant increase. Its new-generation Fengyun-4A/4B meteorological satellites in the geostationary orbit are able to perform all-weather, precise and uninterrupted atmospheric monitoring and disaster monitoring to boost response capability. The successful launches of Fengyun-3D/3E satellites enable coordinated morning, afternoon and twilight monitoring, and the Fengyun-2H satellite provides monitoring services for countries and regions participating in the Belt and Road Initiative.

With further improvements to the ground system of its remote-sensing satellites, China is now able to provide remote-sensing satellite data receiving and quick processing services across the world.

(2) Satellite communications and broadcasting system

China has made steady progress in developing fixed communications and broadcasting satellite network, which now covers more areas with greater capacity. The Zhongxing-6C and Zhongxing-9B satellites ensure the uninterrupted, stable operation of broadcasting and television services. The Zhongxing-16 and APSTAR-6D satellites, each with a 50Gbps capacity, signify that satellite communications in China have reached the stage of high-capacity service.

The mobile communications and broadcasting satellite network has expanded with the launch of the Tiantong-1 02/03 satellites, operating in tandem with the Tiantong-1 01 satellite, to provide voice, short message and data services for hand-held terminal users in China, its neighboring areas, and certain parts of the Asia-Pacific.

The relay satellite system is being upgraded with the launch of the Tianlian-1 05 and Tianlian-2 01 satellites, giving a powerful boost to capacity.

The satellite communications and broadcasting ground system has been improved, to form a space-ground integrated network that provides satellite communications and broadcasting, internet, Internet of Things, and information services around the globe.

(3) Satellite navigation system

The completion and operation of the 30-satellite BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS-3) represents the successful conclusion of the system's three-step strategy and its capacity to serve the world. BeiDou's world-leading services include positioning, navigation, timing, regional and global short-message communication, global search and rescue, ground-based and satellite-based augmentation, and precise point positioning.

In the next five years, China will continue to improve its space infrastructure, and integrate remote-sensing, communications, navigation, and positioning satellite technologies. It will:

· Upgrade its spatial information services featuring extensive connection, precise timing and positioning, and all dimension sensoring;

· Develop satellites for geostationary microwave monitoring, new-type ocean color observation, carbon monitoring of the territorial ecosystem, and atmospheric environmental monitoring;

· Develop dual-antenna X-band interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR), land water resources and other satellite technology, for efficient, comprehensive earth observation and data acquisition across the globe;

· Build a satellite communications network with high and low orbit coordination, test new communications satellites for commercial application, and build a second-generation data relay satellite system;

· Study and research navigation-communications integration, low-orbit augmentation and other key technologies for the next-generation BeiDou Navigation Satellite System, and develop a more extensive, more integrated and smarter national positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) system;

· Continue to improve the ground systems for remote-sensing, communications and navigation satellites.

3. Manned Spaceflight

The Tianzhou-1 cargo spacecraft has docked with the earth-orbiting Tiangong-2 space laboratory. With breakthroughs in key technologies for cargo transport and in-orbit propellant replenishment, China has successfully completed the second phase of its manned spaceflight project.

The launch of the Tianhe core module marks a solid step in building China's space station. The Tianzhou-2 and Tianzhou-3 cargo spacecraft and the Shenzhou-12 and Shenzhou-13 manned spacecraft, together with the Tianhe core module to which they have docked, form an assembly in steady operation. Six astronauts have worked in China's space station, performing extravehicular activities, in-orbit maintenance, and scientific experiments.

In the next five years, China will continue to implement its manned spaceflight project. It plans to:

· Launch the Wentian and Mengtian experimental modules, the Xuntian space telescope, the Shenzhou manned spacecraft, and the Tianzhou cargo spacecraft;

· Complete China's space station and continue operations, build a space laboratory on board, and have astronauts on long-term assignments performing large-scale scientific experiments and maintenance;

· Continue studies and research on the plan for a human lunar landing, develop new-generation manned spacecraft, and research key technologies to lay a foundation for exploring and developing cislunar space.

4. Deep Space Exploration

(1) Lunar exploration

Achieving relay communications through the Queqiao satellite, the Chang'e-4 lunar probe performed humanity's first soft landing on the far side of the moon, and conducted roving exploration. The Chang'e-5 lunar probe brought back 1,731 g of samples from the moon, marking China's first successful extraterrestrial sampling and return, and the completion of its three-step lunar exploration program of orbiting, landing and return.

(2) Planetary exploration

The Tianwen-1 Mars probe orbited and landed on Mars; the Zhurong Mars rover explored the planet and left China's first mark there. China has achieved a leap from cislunar to interplanetary exploration.

In the next five years, China will continue with lunar and planetary exploration. It will:

· Launch the Chang'e-6 lunar probe to collect and bring back samples from the polar regions of the moon;

· Launch the Chang'e-7 lunar probe to perform a precise landing in the moon's polar regions and a hopping detection in lunar shadowed area;

· Complete R&D on the key technology of Chang'e-8, and work with other countries, international organizations and partners to build an international research station on the moon;

· Launch asteroid probes to sample near-earth asteroids and probe main-belt comets;

· Complete key technological research on Mars sampling and return, exploration of the Jupiter system, and so forth;

· Study plans for boundary exploration of the solar system.

5. Space Launch Sites and Telemetry, Tracking and Command (TT&C)

(1) Space launch sites

Adaptive improvements have been completed at the Jiuquan, Taiyuan and Xichang launch sites, with new launch pads installed at Jiuquan for the commercial launch of liquid fuel rockets, and the Wenchang Launch Site entering service. China has formed a launch site network covering both coastal and inland areas, high and low altitudes, and various trajectories to satisfy the launch needs of manned spaceships, space station modules, deep space probes and all kinds of satellites. In addition, its first sea launch site has begun operation.

(2) Space TT&C

China's leap from cislunar to interplanetary TT&C communications, with growing space-based TT&C capacity, represents a significant progress. Its space TT&C network has improved to form an integrated space-ground TT&C network providing security, reliability, quick response, flexible access, efficient operation and diverse services. TT&C missions of the Shenzhou and Tianzhou spacecraft series, Tianhe core module, Chang'e lunar probe series, and Tianwen-1 Mars probe have been completed successfully. TT&C station networks for commercial satellites are growing quickly.

In the next five years, China will strengthen unified technical standard-setting for its space products, and on this basis will:

· Further adapt the existing launch site system to better serve most launch missions, and make launch sites smarter, more reliable and more cost-effective to support high-intensity and diversified launch missions;

· Build commercial launch pads and launch sites to meet different commercial launch needs;

· Improve the space TT&C network in terms of organization, technology and methodology, grow the capacity to utilize and integrate space- and ground-based TT&C resources, and build a space TT&C network providing ubiquitous coverage and connections;

· Coordinate the operation and management of the national space system for greater efficiency;

· Strengthen the deep-space TT&C communications network to support missions probing the moon and Mars.

6. Experiments on New Technologies

China has launched a number of new technological test satellites, and tested new technologies such as the common platforms of new-generation communications satellites, very high throughput satellites' telecommunication payload, Ka-band communications, satellite-ground high-speed laser communications, and new electric propulsion.

In the next five years, China will focus on new technology engineering and application, conduct in-orbit tests of new space materials, devices and techniques, and test new technologies in these areas:

· Smart self-management of spacecraft;

· Space mission extension vehicle;

· Innovative space propulsion;

· In-orbit service and maintenance of spacecraft;

· Space debris cleaning.

7. Space Environment Governance

With a growing database, China's space debris monitoring system is becoming more capable of collision warning and space event perception and response, effectively ensuring the safety of in-orbit spacecraft.

In compliance with the Space Debris Mitigation Guidelines and the Guidelines for the Long-term Sustainability of Outer Space Activities, China has applied upper stage passivation to all its carrier rockets, and completed end of life active deorbit of the Tiangong-2 and other spacecraft, making a positive contribution to mitigating space debris.

Progress has been made in the search and tracking of near-earth objects and in data analysis. A basic space climate service system is now in place, capable of providing services in space climate monitoring, early warning, and forecasting, and is providing broader applications.

In the next five years, China will continue to expand its space environment governance system. It will:

· Strengthen space traffic control;

· Improve its space debris monitoring system, cataloguing database, and early warning services;

· Conduct in-orbit maintenance of spacecraft, collision avoidance and control, and space debris mitigation, to ensure the safe, stable and orderly operation of the space system;

· Strengthen the protection of its space activities, assets and other interests by boosting capacity in disaster backup and information protection, and increasing invulnerability and survivability;

· Study plans for building a near-earth object defense system, and increase the capacity of near-earth object monitoring, cataloguing, early warning, and response;

· Build an integrated space-ground space climate monitoring system, and continue to improve relevant services to effectively respond to catastrophic space climate events.

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