The Achievements and the Future of the Development of China's Space Technology

By Zhang Xinzhai

China's space cause is based on the development of missile technology. In the 1950s, New China, which was just founded , decided to keep pace with the jet technology times, begin developing missile and rocket science and technology, and to establish China's new space scientific and technological industry.

The Course and Achievements of the Development of China's Space Technology

On October 6, 1956, under the directive leadership of Vice-Premier Nie Rongzhen, a missile development organization, the No.5 Research Academy of the Ministry of National Defense, was set up and Dr. Qian Xuesen was appointed the president. At the same time, the Academy formulated the missile technology development policy of self- reliance as our foothold, while striving to win external assistance and to use scientific achievements acquired by the capitalist countries.

On November 5, 1960, the first China-made short-range surface to surface missile made its successful flight test. At the very beginning, China's missile development encountered serious difficulties in the development of China's national economy. But the country still attached great importance to the development of the missiles, supported the continuous development of the most advanced technology of national defense. The country gave priority to construction of the No. 5 Research Academy of the Ministry of National Defense, concentrated talents, equipment and installations, and materials. The engineers and technicians worked with a will to make the country strong and tried to make a good showing, transferred the focal point of their work to their own design, and accelerated the independent development of missile technology.

On March 21, 1962, the first intermediate-range missile designed and developed by China itself made its maiden flight test, but it was unsuccessful. The engineers summed up lessons, analyzed the failure cause in the light of engineering technology, scientific management and guidelines, reviewed and revised the system technology design, made full ground tests, took good charge of links in the development and overcame many key technological difficulties. Two years later, on June 29, 1964, the intermediate-range missile test achieved success, which marked that China had already obtained the independent capability to develop missiles. At that time, the development of missiles in China had initially formed industrial scale. China made the first step in developing missile industry through self-reliance.

In 1965, the Party Central Committee and the State Council decided to establish the Seventh Ministry of Machine Building to unify the leadership of the missile industry, concentrate forces and to speed up the development of missiles. From this time on, China's missile weapons entered into total development stage. Its missile development and production force obtained greater advances. Then the development of various versions of missiles began and made a great advances. Especially the successful development of the ballistic surface to surface missile laid a foundation for the development of space launch vehicles. Therefore, in the late 1950s, China began considering the plan for the launch of artificial satellites. By 1972, China had made many successful flight tests of strategic intermediate- range and intermediate- and long-range missiles and achieved multi-stage vehicle technology, which laid a good foundation for the launch of artificial earth satellites.

In 1957 when the world's first artificial earth satellite was launched , China's many famous scientists, including Dr. Qian Xuesen, advocated beginning the development of space technology. The Chinese Academy of Sciences and former Seventh Ministry of Machine Building began developing space technology respectively. The Chinese Academy of Space Technology was set up in 1968. The Academy had been responsible for the leadership and management of satellite development.

At the beginning of 1970, the LM-1 launch vehicle was developed successfully based on many flight tests of long- range surface to surface missiles. At the same time, the development of the DFH- 1 satellite was completed in time.

*+TPE,+105mm170mm,YX,DY#*+ [TS(][WT5HZ][JZ]Flying towards the Pacific Ocean[TS)]

On April 24, 1970, China's first indigenous satellite was launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, which was broadcasting the melody, Dong Fang Hong (the East is Red) to the whole world. The satellite is 173kg, heavier than the total weight of the first satellites of the United States, Soviet Union, United Kingdom and France, which indicates that the development of China's space technology has a high-level starting point although it started late. This historic launch opened up a new chapter of China's space history. On March 3, 1971, a LM-1 vehicle was also used to launch China's first "Shijian-1" scientific experiment satellite, which was operating in space for 8 years and obtained scientific experiment data in space. Thereafter, China successfully developed the LM-2 with greater thrust and the recoverable satellite which was launched successfully for the first time on November 26, 1975 . The satellite was working normally, and safely impact down the recovering area after 3 days' operation in space. China became the third country in the world to achieve the satellite recovery technology after the United States and the Soviet Union.

After the Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, China entered a new historic period, which created a good environment and very favorable conditions for the development of China's space cause. In September, 1977 the State worked out a plan for the development of the launch vehicle and space technology, which determined to make the full rang flight test of the intercontinental launch vehicle towards a sea area in the Pacific Ocean, to make the flight test of the solid launch vehicle from the submarine under water and to launch the geostationary orbit experimental communications satellite. Those important projects were major strategic goals ( called Three seizures). Under the correct leadership of the Central Committee of the Party, with the coordination and support of the related department and areas, and through the great efforts of technicians and workers, all the three important missions were completed respectively.

On May 18, 1980, China launched a long-range rocket to the South Pacific Ocean from its mainland. After more than 9000km flying, the recovery capsule precisely splashed down on the predetermined sea area. The test flight was successful. The success of the full range launch test of a long-range rocket marked that the Chinese people made the important step in the development of the modern science and technology and that China's defence capability was newly improved and enhanced.

From 1977 to 1982, after the success of several land launch tests , the test of the submarine underwater launched solid rocket which was launched from the submarine underwater in October, 1982 achieved success. It marked that China's launch vehicle technology made a new progress.

At the same time China also accelerated the work on the experimental geostationary communications satellite. This development program covered a new powerful LM-3 launch vehicle, DFH-2 communications satellite and test, measurement, control and launch systems. Especially the LN/LO engine of the third stage was the key project. Its successful development was a breakthrough in the powerful launch vehicle technology, which laid a solid foundation for the successful development of the LM-3 launch vehicle. In April 8, 1984, the DFH- 2 experimental communications satellite was sent into the predetermined orbit by a LM-3 launch vehicle from the newly built Xichang Satellite Launch Center.After 8 days, the satellite was positioned at 125E over the equator. The test results of communications, broadcast and TV transmission between ground stations and the satellite were very good, which indicated that China's space technology made a new progress and that China's launch vehicle technology and satellite technology stepped into the world's advanced ranks.

The reform and opening policy created a new opportunity and brought about a new vigore for the development of China's space technology and also opened up the broader way to a bright future for the application of China's space technology. In October, 1985, the Chinese Government announced that the long march vehicle family would be offered commercially to customers throughout the world. The various media publicly reported commercial launch services for foreign customers provided by the long march vehicle family. The Long March launch vehicle members which are commercially offered to foreign customers are the LM-2C, the LM-3, the LM-2E and the LM-3A. China will have new Long March vehicles to provide international commercial launch services.

Generally speaking, China's space industry has obtained good achievements. We have put into use 9 kinds of Long March series launch vehicles which can launch various satellites into low orbit, middle and high orbits, sun-synchronous orbit and geostationary orbit. China has launched 44 various indigenous and foreign satellites and signed several international commercial launch service contracts to launch more that 30 satellites. We have communications satellites, scientific experiment satellites and earth observation satellites, etc. . Some technologies such as satellite recovery, cryogenic propellant rocket, geostationary satellite launch, measurement and control, multi-satellite on one rocket launch, strap-on booster and other technologies have approached and reached the advanced world level in some important areas of space technology.

China's space industry has built a space contingent with high- technical competence, who is able to be engaged in the research, design, development, production and test work. Among them middle-aged and young successors account for more than 50%. It has built bases and facilities for the research, design, development, test and production of satellites , launch vehicles, launch equipment, measurement system and control system, constructed launch centers which can launch low orbit and geostationary orbit satellites, and set up TT&C network, which is composed of the control center, ground observation stations and instrumentation ships. Therefore, China has bases, capabilities to continuously open up the new areas of space technological activities.

From the development of the launch vehicle and space technology, we can know the developmental course and achievements of China's space industry. However, that is only one representative aspect. Other aspects of the development of China's space cause also have obtained good achievements which also reached the world level in many areas.

Prospects for the Development of China's Space Technology

China explicitly stated long ago that China would not take part in space technology competition among super powers. In the development of space technology, we follow our own self-reliance developmental road, strengthen international cooperation, and introduce advanced technology. The development of space technology would center on the demand of national economic construction, give priority to the development of application satellites. China is a developing country with a limited national power, undeveloped economy and limited fund used in space technology. We must act according to our capability and adhere to thrift and careful budgeting. China is a big country and the Chinese nation has capability to stand on among the world's nations, so we cannot lag far behind the countries with advanced space technology but selectively track the development of advanced technology in the world, and occupy and keep a place in some areas of space technology. And we should consider the future developments according to the above thoughts and actual conditions.

Launch vehicle

Artificial Satellite

Deep Space Detection Technology

To date, China has launched 7 scientific experimental satellites and also launched some piggyback probes, but they were limited to detecting the electromagnectic field, ions and rays in near-earth space . We also have carried out crystal growth, animal and plant seeds experiments in space microgravity environment. We have not yet done much work on deep space detecting technology. With the development of national economy and the increase of national economic strength, we can do a lot in this field. For example, according to China's present technological level and capability, we are able and will explore the moon. For instance, soft-landing on the moon will be conducted to explore the moon surface and related data will be transmited back to the earth. From the point of view of technology, we can do all of them. The key problem is the financial support.

Manned Space Flight

The manned space flight is based on the unmanned space flight technology. Therefore, China also plans to develop manned space flight technology. China has explicitly included the development of space flight technology in its Mid- and Long-term Science and Technology Development Program published in 1992. Even some foreign experts do not suspect China's ability to develop manned space flight technology. On the one hand, China's LM-2E launch vehicle can launch 9.2-ton payload into low-orbit, while the former Soviet Union's first spaceship weighs 4.7-ton and the US's Mercury only weighs 1.8-ton. On the other hand, China's satellite recoverable technology laid the sound foundation for the development of manned space flight technology. So I believe that China will develop it sooner or later. I also believe that with the enhancement of China's economic strength and the development of scientific and technological bases, China will not only develop the manned space flight technology but also put forward newer and higher requirements for the development of space technology, embracing synthesizing and processing materials with very high purity and special characteristics, breeding and making various biological experiments on the space station and even collecting the elements and minerals the earth rarely has from the moon (For example, there is no helium-3 on the earth, which is the ideal fuel for nuclear fusion reactor) , and developing the tourist industry in space. All of these are very attractive and the Chinese space scientists and technicians will work for them from generation to generation.

China obtained great achievements in the development of space technology completely through self-reliance in the past closed door case. Now China is carrying out the reform and opening to the outside world policy, which created the favourable conditions for making international cooperations and exchanges in space technology. Mr. Liu Jiyuan, Administrator of China's National Space Administration, on behalf of the Chinese government announced 4 principles to be followed by China in making international space technology cooperation at the 45th IAF Conference. The Chinese Government signed cooperative Agreements in space technology with Brazil, Russia etc., participated in the International Astronautical Federation, United Nations Committee on Peaceful Use of Outer Space and other international organizations, made cooperation and exchanges in space technology with many countries and regions, and developed technological cooperation or established joint-ventures with some world -famous space companies. I believe that China's space industry will surely develop rapidly and better and can create even more brilliant attainments than ever before.


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