China Completes Beidou Satellite Navigation System

Note: As of June 28, 2019. Adapted from Kazuhiro Kida and Shinichi Hashimoto, “China’s Version of GPS Now Has More Satellites than US Original,” Nikkei Asian Review, August 19, 2019.

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

China completed its Beidou satellite navigation system with a launch last week, fully standing up a rival to the American Global Positioning System (GPS), Europe’s Galileo constellation, and Russia’s GLONASS system and strengthening the nation as a space power.

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Chinese Next-Gen Spacecraft Lands After Orbital Flight

A Chinese next-generation crewed spacecraft landed on Friday after a nearly three-day automated flight in Earth orbit.

Pictures from Chinese media showed the capsule descending under three parachutes. The vehicle had made a high-speed reentry from a final orbit of 523 x 6,278 km (325 x 3,901 miles) to simulate a return from deep space.

The new spacecraft, which will carry up to six astronauts, is intended to replace the three-seat Shenzhou spaceship now in use. China will use the new vehicle for operations in Earth and lunar orbit.

A Long March 5B launched the spacecraft into Earth orbit on Tuesday from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on Hainan Island. It was the maiden flight of Long March 5 variant, which will be used to launch elements of China’s first permanent space station next year.

Long March 5B has a core stage with four strap-on boosters. It lacks the upper stage of the Long March 5, which is used to send communications satellites to geosynchronous orbit and probes to the moon and planets.

Links to Recent Posts About China’s Space Program

Artist’s conception of China’s Tianhe-1 space station. (Credit: China Manned Space Engineering)

Parabolic Arc recently completed a series on the findings of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission’s 2019 Report to Congress focused on China’s surging space program.

Below are links to those posts. You can also download the full report in PDF format.

China’s Ambitious Plans to Dominate Cislunar Space

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

Continuing our look at the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission’s 2019 Report to Congress, we examine China’s plans to achieve a commanding position in cislunar space. [Full Report]

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

China is determined to establish a commanding position in cislunar space, seeing it as a strategic location from which to dominate the final frontier.

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Report: China Uses Foreign Tech to Boost Space Program

China satellite launch

Continuing our look at the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission’s 2019 Report to Congress, we examine how China is leveraging foreign technology to improve its space program. [Full Report]

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

China has been building up its domestic space industry through partnerships with foreign universities and by exploiting loopholes in U.S. export laws, according to a new report from the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

“The pursuit of foreign technology and talent, especially from the United States, continues to be central to military-civil fusion and China’s space development modernization goals,” the report stated. “Under military-civil fusion, so-called ‘guidance funds’ pool state-owned and private capital together for investments, allowing the state to steer ostensibly private capital toward investments in nascent dual-use sectors it deems strategically important—a tool China has consistently applied to the development of its space sector.”

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China Making Aggressive Moves to Dominate Commercial Space Sector

China satellite launch

Continuing our look at the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission’s 2019 Report to Congress, we examine China’s growing commercial space industry. [Full Report]

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

China is using aggressive state-backed financing to capture increasing shares of the commercial launch and satellite markets, making it more difficult for American companies to compete and threatening to hollow out the U.S. industrial base.

China is also leverage “military-civil” fusion to create a burgeoning commercial space sector by providing substantial state support. Nearly 90 new space companies have been created since 2014, most of which enjoy the support of the Chinese military, defense industrial base, or state-owned research and development institutions.

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China Aims to Knock Out U.S. Space Systems in Conflict

China’s 2007 test of its ground-based ASAT missile destroyed one of its own defunct satellites in LEO. The graphic depicts the orbits of trackable debris generated by the test 1 month after the event. The white line represents the International Space Station’s orbit. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Continuing our look at the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission’s 2019 Report to Congress, we examine the growing threat from China’s military space systems. [Full Report]

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

China has spent the last 15 years testing kinetic kill, directed energy, electromagnetic, cyber and other systems in an effort to develop methods for crippling American satellites during a conflict.

“China’s development of offensive space capabilities may now be outstripping the United States’ ability to defend against them, increasing the possibility that U.S. vulnerability combined with a lack of a credible deterrence posture could invite Chinese aggression,” according to a new report to Congress by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

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China’s First Mars Lander Performs Successful Hover Test

HEBEI HUAILAI, China (CNSA PR) — On November 14, 2019, the China National Space Administration invited some foreign embassies and international organizations to go to Hebei Huailai to observe China’s first Mars exploration mission lander hovering obstacle avoidance test and visit relevant test facilities. 

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China Releases Commercial Launch Vehicle Rules

Chinese OS-M commercial rocket (Credit: OneSpace)

SpaceNews reports that the Chinese government has released a set of rules for its growing commercial launch sector.

The document outlines rules for the research, development, testing of launch vehicles, safety, confidentiality and export control, interaction with launch sites, dealing with propellants, as well as listing supporting laws and regulations for China’s space activities.

The rules also clarify what qualifications are required by commercial aerospace enterprises, the scope of business, as well as what support may be obtained from the government, and underlines the role of the civil-military integration national strategy in fostering development in the sector.

The regulations (Chinese) were jointly developed by the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND), which oversees the country’s space activities, and the Equipment Development Department of the Central Military Commission and announced June 10.

The formulation of guidelines has largely been a top-down process, with no indication of involvement of commercial space actors. A wider, first national space law has been included in the legislative plan of China’s parliament, the National People’s Congress, and could be introduced before 2023.











China Introduces Regulations for Private Sector Space Development.

The South China Morning Post reports that the Chinese government has introduced new regulations to govern the development of commercial space companies.

They require companies to obtain official permission before carrying out rocket research and development as well as production, according to a notice published on the web site of the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense on Monday.

The new rules also require a confidentiality system to be established among commercial rocket companies and asks them to follow state export control regulations when in doubt about whether they can provide overseas services and products.

The detailed regulations come as the number of private companies engaged in the commercialisation of China’s space industry increased to almost 100 in 2018 from 30 a year earlier, and as Beijing puts more emphasis on private sector involvement to boost its space ambitions.

“The specifics give clear direction for China’s commercial space industry, clarifying the qualifications, operational boundaries and national guarantees, which will be conducive to the sector’s healthy and orderly development,” Shu Chang, CEO of Beijing-based commercial rocket pioneer OneSpace Technology, was quoted as saying to state media Global Times on Tuesday.











NOAA, FAA AST Space Programs Get Funding Boosts

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Last week, we took a look at the significant increase in NASA’s budget for FY 2019. In this story, we will examine the budget increases for the Commerce Department — which manages the nation’s weather satellites — and the Department of Transportation, which oversees commercial launches. We will also take a look how the White House’s National Space Council fared.

Commerce Department

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

NOAA’s satellite programs received $1,45 billion, which is an increase of $55 million over FY 2018. The bulk of the funding is designated for the GOES-R,  Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) and Polar Follow-on (PFO) programs. The amounts include:

  • JPSS: $548 million
  • GOES-R: $408.4 million
  • PFO: $330 million

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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.











NASA’s Lunar Plans Panned by National Space Council’s Users Group

The Lunar Gateway formerly known as the Deep Space Gateway (Credit: NASA)

SpaceNews reports that NASA’s plan to put a lunar gateway in orbit around the moon and get astronauts down to the surface in 2028 took quite a pounding from some members of the National Space Council’s Users’ Advisory Group during the body’s first meeting last week.

“Personally, I think 2028 for humans on the moon, that’s 10 years from now. It just seems like it’s so far off,” said former astronaut Eileen Collins. “We can do it sooner.”
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China to Launch First of 320 Satellite Constellation

GB Times reports that China plans to launch the first of a planned 320 communications satellite constellation by the end of this year.

The satellite will be sent into a 1,100 km altitude orbit by a Long March 2D launch vehicle to test L- and Ka-band communication capabilities and compatibility in low Earth orbit (LEO).

A Long March 2D appears set to launch the SaudiSat 5A and 5B earth observation satellites with passengers including Jiading-1 from Jiuquan on November 20, but Hongyan-1 will likely be aboard a later launch.

It will be one of nine satellites orbited by 2020 as a pilot demonstration for the Hongyan system, which translates as ‘wild goose’. The name likely comes from the fact that geese were used to deliver messages in ancient China.

The first 60 satellites making up the first phase of deployment of the Hongyan constellation are expected to be in orbit and operational by around 2023, with the 300+ satellite system, which will provide global coverage, to be completed by 2025.











Russia Expresses Lunar Gateway Doubts, Ponders Joint Lunar Surface Base with China

The space station formerly known as the Deep Space Gateway (Credit: NASA)

Russian officials are expressing doubts about the American-led Lunar Gateway — which would orbit the moon — while deepening cooperation with China on deep-space exploration projects that could include a crewed base on the surface of Earth’s closest neighbor.

SpaceNews reports that Dmitri Loskutov, head of Roscosmos’ international cooperation department, laid out a series of concerns during a panel discussion last week at the International Astronautical Congress in Bremen, Germany.

“For the moment, it looks like it is an American program with international participation,” he said. “How will this cooperation be managed? Will there be some sort of international administrative body? Will its principles remain those that are now valid for the International Space Station, in terms of consensus in decision-making?”

“For the moment, all the decisions are made by NASA. It seems U.S. standards will be imposed,” he said. “For Roscosmos and the Russian Federation, limited participation is not that interesting.”

Loskutov’s boss, Roscosmos CEO Dmitry Rogozin, was in China the week before for joint discussions on a range of cooperative projects.

“As a result of the meeting, a Protocol was signed, according to which the Parties will take further steps to bring their positions closer within the framework of implementing joint projects on launch vehicles and rocket engines, on exploration of the Moon and deep space, remote sensing of the Earth, satellite navigation, creation of an electronic component base for space purposes, low-orbit mobile communication system and space debris monitoring,” according to a Roscosmos press release.

Tass quoted Rogozin as saying the project could include a base on the lunar surface.

“China is a serious partner. I don’t rule out that as soon as we agree the outlines of our lunar program with the Americans, it is our manned lunar program, the formation of a research station on Moon’s surface is likely to be carried out with our Chinese partners. They can be equal partners already in the coming years,” he told Russia’s TV Channel One.