China Using Space to Further Geopolitical Goals

Completing our look at the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission’s 2019 Report to Congress, we examine how China is using its space program to achieve the nation’s geopolitical and economic goals. [Full Report]

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

China is using its growing space program to achieve a range of geopolitical and economic goals, including attracting partners for its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), improving economic and political ties with other countries, and deepening others’ reliance on its space systems and data services.

“Beijing views its space program as key to elevating its leadership profile in international space cooperation, including through BRI, and establishing a dominant position in the commercial space industry,” according to the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission’s 2019 Report to Congress.

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China Lunar Plans Focused on South Pole

China’s Yutu 2 rover drives off the Chang’e-4 lander. (Credit: CNSA)

China’s aggressive long-range program explore the moon includes a heavy focus on the south pole where probes have detected water.

China’s Chang’e-4 mission is currently exploring the moon with a rover and lander on the far side. The vehicles are communicating with Earth via an orbiting spacecraft. The Chang’e-4 mission also includes two lunar CubeSats, one of which is still operational.

China plans to launch the Chang’e-5 mission by the end of 2020 to bring back soil samples from the lunar surface. The plan is to bring back at least 2 kg (4.4 lb) of soil from the Mons Rümker region in the northwest section of the moon.

Xinhua reports there are three other moon missions planned in the years ahead:

  • Chang’e-7, set for launch in 2023, will carry out comprehensive surveys of the south pole;
  • Chang’e-6, scheduled to be launched in 2024, will bring back samples from the lunar south pole; and,
  • Chang’e-8, scheduled for launch in 2027, will test technologies to lay the ground work for a research base on the lunar surface.

China expects to conduct crewed missions to a lunar base sometime during the 2030’s.