The space program of China was initiated soon after the founding of the PRC. It was the fruit of the Cold War with its technological, military and geopolitical races. China was launched into the space race in order to thwart nuclear blackmail from the United States that only a nuclear deterrent could counter. Eventually, this space program would cover anti-ballistic missile system, anti-satellite weaponries, reconnaissance and intelligence satellites, manned spacecrafts, space laboratories, space stations and spaceplanes, culminating after the end of the Cold War with plans for Moon bases and extraterrestrial exploration. As a result, after half a century of endeavours, China ranks third among the space-faring nations.
After American nuclear bombing threats during the Korean War as early as October 1951, and then again during the Taiwan Strait Crisis of 1954-1955, Chairman Mao was forced to admit that the human waves doctrine had reached its limit and decided that only a nuclear deterrent of its own would guarantee the security of the newly founded PRC. Thus, Chairman Mao announced for the first time his decision to develop China's own strategic weapons including nuclear bombs and associated missile vector for the warheads during a Chinese Communist Party Central Committee meeting held on January 15, 1955. The Chinese nuclear weapons program was designated by the codename of "02".
We not only need more aircrafts and pieces of artillery, we also need the Bomb.
In today's world, if one doesn't want to be bullied, one must have it.
The Fifth Academy of the Defence Ministry (国防部第五研究院) was founded on October 8, 1956, with Qian Xueshen who had just been deported from the United States after being accused of being a communist during the red scare, as director, starting the development of the first ballistic missile program, adopted on March 1, 1956 and known as the first Twelve-Year-Plan for Chinese aerospace.
After the launch of mankind's first artificial satellite Sputnik 1 by the Soviet Union on October 4, 1957, Chairman Mao decided during the National Congress of the CCP on May 17, 1958 to make China an equal with the superpowers (“我们也要搞人造卫星”), by adopting Project 581 with the objective of placing a satellite in orbit by 1959 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the PRC's founding. This goal would be achieved in three phases: developing sounding rockets first, then launching small satellites and in the final phase large size satellites.
The construction of China's first missile test base, code-named Base 20 (西北综合导弹试验基地), started in April 1958 and entered service on October 20 of the same year.
During the cordial Sino-Soviet relations of the 1950s, the USSR engaged in a cooperative technology transfer program with the PRC under which they trained Chinese students and provided the fledgling program with a sample R-2 rocket.
The first Chinese missile was built in October 1958 as a reverse-engineered copy of the Soviet R-2 SRBM, itself an upgraded version of a German V-2 rocket. Its range was 590 km, weighing 20.5 tons and propelled with liquid oxygen and alcohol.
China started to develop MRBM in July 1960, with an increased range double that of the R-2.
But when Khrushchev was denounced as revisionist, with Chairman Mao asserting that there had been a counter-revolution in the Soviet Union and that capitalism had been restored, the friendly relationship between the two countries turned to confrontation. As a consequence, all Soviet technological assistances were abruptly withdrawn after the 1960 Sino-Soviet split.
Only 17 days after the last Soviet expert had left China, a first Soviet built R-2 rocket fuelled with Chinese made propellant was launched with success on September 10, 1960.
With the Cold War ever escalating nuclear blackmail, the decision is taken by Chairman Mao Zedong in December 1963 to give China a missile defence system capacity. During a conference held in February 2, 1964, directive 640 （640指示）is adopted latter known as Project 640.
The building of a second missile test site in the Shanxi Province, farther away from the northern border to support the country’s ballistic missile programme was decided in November 1966, called Northern Missile Test Site (华北导弹试验场).
On October 27, 1966, a nuclear-tipped DF-2A missile was launched from Jiuquan and the 20 kilotons yield nuclear warhead exploded at the height of 569 meters over the target in Lop Nor or Base 21 situated 894 km away.
As the space race between the two superpowers reached its climax with the conquest of the Moon, Chairman Mao and Zhou Enlai decided in July 14, 1967 that the PRC should not be left behind by starting China's own manned space program. China's first spacecraft designed for human occupancy was named Shuguang-1 (曙光一号) in January 1968。 China's Space Medical Institute (航天医学工程研究所) was founded on April 1, 1968, and the Central Military Commission issued the order of starting the selection of astronauts. Space medical research were also conducted. As part of the "third line" effort to relocate critical defense infrastructure in the relatively remote interior, the construction of a new space center code-named Base 27 for supporting the manned space program in the mountainous region of Xichang in the Sichuan province was decided, located farther from the Soviet border, thus safer. Major nuclear and space research centers were all relocated in these regions buried in deep facilities, such as China Aerodynamics Research and Development Center (中国空气动力研究与发展中心), home of Asia's largest wind tunnels facilities, China Academy of Engineering Physics (中国工程物理研究院) known as the 9th Academy in charge of nuclear weapon design both located in Mianyang, Yibin Nuclear Fuels Factory (宜宾核燃料元件厂) known as Plant 812 engaged in the fabrication of plutonium fuel rod, production and processing of plutonium for nuclear weapons, the production of tritium and Li-6 deuterium, or Guangyuan plutonium production reactor (广源县核工业部821工厂) known as Plant 821, China’s largest plutonium separation facility. With Chairman Mao’s slogan calling for people to dig deeper, massive underground cities (北京地下城) also called the Underground Great Wall were dug nation wide to shelter the population from nuclear holocaust, linking for instance Beijing to Tianjin.
A first liquid-propellant DF-3 medium-range ballistic missile was successfully launched from the Northern Missile Test Site on December 18, 1968, inaugurating the test site.
In August 1969, the first heavy-lift SLV program called FB-1 （风暴一号）was started by Shanghai’s 2nd Bureau of Mechanic-Electrical Industry. The all liquid two stages launcher was derived from the DF-5 ICBM. Only a few months later, a parallel heavy-lift SLV program also based on the same DF-5 ICBM was started in Beijing by the First Space Academy and known as CZ-2.
The DF-4 was used to develop the Long March-1 SLV. Based on the two Nitric acid/UDMH liquid propellant first stages, a new-design spin up orbital insertion solid propellant rocket motor third stage was added. A first attempt to launch a satellite before Japan ended in failure on November 16, 1969.
The first DF-4 liquid-propellant with two-stage, single-warhead IRBM was tested with success on January 30, 1970. The addition of a second-stage allowed the missile to increased its range to over 4750 km.
The second satellite launch attempt on April 24, 1970, allowed China to launch the 173 ㎏ Dong Fang Hong I (东方红一号;meaning The East Is Red I) also known as Mao-1, making it the heaviest among the first satellites placed into orbit by a nation, while even exceeding the combined masses of the first satellites of the other four previous countries.
The third stage of the CZ-1 was specially equipped with a 40 m2 solar reflector (观察球) deployed by the centrifugal force developed by the spin up orbital insertion solid propellant stage. Therefore, the faint magnitude 5 to 8 brightness of the DFH-1 making the satellite at best barely visible with naked eyes was consequently dramatically increased to a comfortable magnitude 2 to 3, allowing the Dong Fang Hong Ⅰ to be the shiniest among the first satellites placed into orbit by a nation.
The PRC's second satellite was launched with the last of the CZ-1 SLV on March 3, 1971. The 221 ㎏ ShiJian-1 (SJ-1) scientific experimental satellite was notably equipped with a magnetometer and cosmic-ray/x-ray detectors.
The first screening process of astronauts ended on March 15, 1971, with 19 astronauts chosen.
Thus, with the newly acquired confidence following the milestone technological achievement of Two bombs and one satellite projects (“两弹一星”), the first manned space program known as Project 714, was officially adopted in April 1971 with the goal of sending two astronauts into space by 1973 aboard the Shuguang spacecraft. By that date, the program was already cancelled due to political turmoil.
Following the accomplishment of such technological prowess, the new prestige gained in the world stage allowed China to enter the club of Great powers. Consequently, on October 25, 1971, Resolution 2758 was passed by the United Nation General Assembly, withdrawing recognition of the ROC as the legitimate government of China, and recognising the PRC as the sole legitimate government of China.
On August 10, 1972, the new heavy-lift SLV FB-1 made its maiden test flight. This launch was only a partial success.
The CZ-2A launcher originally designed to carry the Shuguang-1 spacecraft was first tested in a launch on November 5, 1974, carrying China’s first FSW-0 experimental recoverable satellite, but failed.
After some redesign work, the modified CZ-2C placed successfully a year later on November 26, 1975, the FSW-0 No.1 recoverable satellite (返回式卫星) into orbit. The satellite was recovered three days later, thus making China the only third country in the world to master this technology.
After expansion works, the Northern Missile Test Site was upgraded as a test base in January 1976 to become the Northern Missile Test Base (华北导弹试验基地) known as Base 25.
Then came a series of disappearances of key Chinese leaders mostly heavily involved and essential to the space program. First the mysterious death of Lin Biao on September 13, 1971. Soon followed by Zhou Enlai on January 8, 1976 and only a few months later by Zhu De on July 6, 1976. Finally, Chairman Mao himself was struke on September 9, 1976. As a consequence, his rival Deng Xiaoping denounced during the Cultural Revolution as reactionary and therefore forced to retire from all his offices, slowly re-emerged as China's new leader in 1978, starting at first to slow down all further developments. Then several key projects deemed unnecessary were simply cancelled such as the Fanji ABM system, the Xianfeng Anti-Missile Super Gun, the intercontinental ballistic missiles Early Warning Network 7010 Tracking Radar and the land-based high-power anti-missile laser program.
The first Yuanwang-class space tracking ship was commissioned in 1979, making China the only fourth country to possess such a vessel.
The first full-range test of the DF-5 ICBM was conducted on May 18, 1980. The payload reached its target located 9300 km away in the South Pacific (). The payload was retrieved only five minutes later by helicopter.
China mastered the technology of multiple satellites launch with a single rocket （「一箭三星」）on September 20, 1981, with the successful launch of Feng Bao-1 （风暴一号） also known as XCZ-1 （新长征一号） sending three satellites into orbit (SJ-2, SJ-2A and SJ-2B).
Further development of the Long March rocket series allowed the PRC to initiate a commercial launch program in 1985, which has since launched over 30 foreign satellites, primarily for European and Asian interests.
The next manned space program was even more ambitious and proposed in March 1986, as Astronautics plan 863-2. This consisted of a manned spacecraft (Project 863-204) used to ferry astronaut crews to a space station (Project 863-205). Several spaceplanes designs were rejected two years latter and a simpler space capsule was chosen instead. Although the project did not achieve its goals, it would ultimately evolve into the 1992 Project 921.
China Ministry of Aerospace Industry was founded on July 5, 1988.
China mastered the technology of neutron bomb by testing a low-yield neutron device on September 29, 1988.
Along with Deng's policy of de facto restoration of capitalism in the Chinese economy, implemented in incremental steps, the cultural fabric of the Chinese society was soon his next target. Therefore, names used in the space program previously all chosen from the revolutionnary history of the PRC, were soon replaced with mystico-religious if not medieval ones. Thus, new Long-March carrier rockets were called by Jiang Zemin Divine arrow (神箭) , spacecapsule Divine vessel (神舟) , spaceplane Divine dragon (神龙) , land-based high-power laser Divine light (神光) and supercomputer Divine might (神威).
The final Chinese manned space program was adopted on September 21, 1992. This would basically achieve the previously proposed manned spacecraft, space laboratory and space station concepts to be developed in three phases.
In June of 1993, China Aerospace Industry Corporation (National Space Bureau) was founded in Beijing.
History's worst space accident occurred on February 15, 1996 during the flight of the first Long March 3 B heavy carrier rocket carrying Intelsat 708. After veering off course 22 seconds after launch, it crashed 1,850 meters away from the launch pad in a nearby mountain village destroying 80 houses according to the official count, and killing more than 500 civilians according to unofficial Chinese sources.
On occasion of the 50th anniversary of the PRC's founding, China became the third country in the world to master manned space capsule technology by launching the Shenzhou 1 spacecraft on November 20, 1999 and recovering it after a flight of 21 hours. The country became the third in the world again by sending an astronaut into space aboard Shenzhou 5 on October 15, 2003 for more than 21 hours.
China conducted on January 11, 2007 a very successful anti-satellite missile test with a SC-19 ASAT weapon, making the country the only third in the world to master ASAT technologies.
After this milestone success in the manned space program, China turned its focus on extraterrestrial exploration starting with the Moon. The first Chinese Lunar Exploration Program un-manned lunar orbiter Chang'e 1 was successfully launched on October 24, 2007, making China the fifth nation in the world to master this technology.
On occasion of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, the torch relay and the opening ceremony implied an ambition for China to go further into space, as Wu Jiaxiang (吴稼祥) senior researcher at the China Research Center for Public Policy of the China Society of Economic Reform explained in the China Youth Daily (《中国青年报》). Yang Liwei, the first astronaut of the manned spacecraft Shenzhou V, was the first torchbearer in Beijing, and the opening ceremony torch was lit by Li Ning after his 'run in-space'. The Olympic Games actually represent the development of civilization. The torch of the human civilization was lit in remote ancient, and was passed through the fishing times, slash and burn cultivation times, nomadic times, farming times to cross-seas trade times. After three types of civilization, cattle-backed, horsebacked and shipboarded, now the Chinese nation is finally heading toward a new space-shipboarded civilization era. The climax saw a giant globe rising from the center of the stadium similar to the launch of a spacecraft, effect accentuated by the spectacular blaze of fireworks launched into the starry night sky throughout Beijing. As performers circumnavigated the nine-ringed blue globe displaying orbital visions at the opening ceremony, the hue then turned slowly to yellowish, symbolising the future exploratory missions from the pale Blue Planet to the bright golden Saturnian world.
The PRC is a member of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and a signatory to all United Nations treaties and conventions on space. The United States government has long been resistant to the use of PRC launch services by American industry due to concerns over alleged civilian technology transfer that could have dual-use military applications to traditional allied countries such as Pakistan, North Korea, Iran or Syria, and in 2000 announced an official embargo. Thus, financial retaliatory measures have been taken on many occasions against several Chinese space companies. Furthermore, it has been assessed that the recent improvements in the Chinese space program has been due in large part to the illegal aid given to the Chinese missile program by elements within American corporations Hughes Aerospace, Loral and Lockheed-Martin. In early 2000 the US fined Lockheed $13 million for violating US export control laws in relation to this case. US Agencies allege that as a result of an intelligence collection program spanning two decades, and continuing to the present, China has stolen classified information on all of the United States' most advanced thermonuclear warheads, and several of the associated reentry vehicles.
The China National Space Administration, an agency within the Commission of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense currently headed by Sun Laiyan, is now responsible for launches. The Long March rocket which is produced by the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, and satellites are produced by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation. The latter organizations are state-owned enterprises; however, it is the intent of the PRC government that they not actively be state managed and that they behave much as private companies would in the West.
Plus shared space tracking facilities with France, Brazil, Sweden and Australia.
As the space race between the two superpowers reached its climax with the conquest of the Moon, Chairman Mao and Zhou Enlai decided in July 14, 1967 that the PRC should not be left behind, and therefore initiated China's own manned space program. The top secret Project 714 aimed to put two people into space by 1973 with the Shuguang spacecraft. Nineteen PLAAF pilots were selected for this goal on March 1971. The Shuguang-1 spacecraft to be launched with the CZ-2A rocket was designed to carry a crew of two. The program was officially cancelled on May 13, 1972 for economic reasons, though the internal politics of the Cultural Revolution likely motivated the closure.
The short-lived second manned program was based on the successful implementation of landing technology (third in the World after USSR and USA) by FSW satellites. It was announced in 1978 with the open publishing of some details including photos, but then was abruptly canceled in 1980. It has been argued that the second manned program was created solely for propaganda purposes, and was never intended to produce results.
A new manned space program was proposed by the Chinese Academy of Sciences in March 1986, as Astronautics plan 863-2. This consisted of a manned spacecraft (Project 863-204) used to ferry astronaut crews to a space station (Project 863-205). In September of that year, astronauts in training were presented by the Chinese media. The various proposed manned spacecrafts were mostly spaceplanes. Project 863 ultimately evolved into the 1992 Project 921.
A larger basic permanent space station (基本型空间站) will be the third and last phase of Project 921. The total mass will be under 100 tons, with a core module (核心舱) exceeding 20 tons which will serve as a living quarter for the permanent crew. It will also include a Shenzhou cargo (货运飞船), a manned Shenzhou and two other laboratory modules (实验舱). The scale will not be larger than the Soviet Mir space station.
In addition, this could also be the beginning of China's manned international cooperation, which existence was officially disclosed for the first time after the launch of the Shenzhou 7 spacecraft. The participation of friendly nations such as Iran, Pakistan, or North Korea could be expected, as illustated by commemorative stamps depicting Kwangmyŏngsŏng-1 the first North Korean satellite orbiting along Shenzhou 5 behind the leaders of both nations.
On November 27, 2005, the deputy commander of the manned spaceflight program announced that the PRC planned to complete a space station and a manned mission to the Moon by 2020, assuming funding was approved by the government. Towards that end they intended to perfect space walking and docking by 2012.
On December 14, 2005, it was reported "an effort to launch lunar orbiting satellites will be supplanted in 2007 by a program aimed at accomplishing an unmanned lunar landing. A program to return unmanned space vehicles from the moon will begin in 2012 and last for five years, until the manned program gets underway" in 2017, with a manned Moon landing some time after that.
Nonetheless, the decision to develop a totally new moon rocket in the 1962 Soviet UR-700M-class (Project Aelita) able to launch a 500 tons payload in LTO and a more modest 50 tons LTO payload LV has been discussed in a 2006 conference by academician Zhang Guitian (张贵田), a liquid propellant rocket engine speciallist, who developed the CZ-2 and CZ-4A rockets engines.
On June 22, 2006, Long Lehao, deputy chief architect of the lunar probe project, laid out a schedule for China's lunar exploration. He set 2024 as the date of China's first moonwalk
As clearly shown in the official Chinese Lunar Exploration Program insignia, representing a caligraphed 月, ideogram for the Moon, in the shape of a nascent lunar crescent, with two human footsteps at its center, the ultimate objective of the program is to establish a permanent human presence on the natural satellite.
Yang Liwei declared at the 16th Human in Space Symposium of International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) in Beijing, on May 22, 2007 that building a lunar base was a crucial step to realize a flight to Mars and farther planets.
According to practice, since the whole project is only at a very early preparatory researches phase, no official manned Moon program has been announced yet by the authorities. But its existence is nonetheless revealed by regular intentional leaks in the media. Typical example is the Lunar Roving Vehicle (月球车) that was shown on a Chinese TV channel（东方卫视）on occasion of the 2008 May Day celebrations.
The first unmanned Mars exploration program should take place between the 2014-2033 period, followed by a manned phase in 2040-2060.
Moreover, in order to make manned flight in deep space toward Mars safer, a space weather forecast system will be completed by 2012 with the Kuafu mission satellites placed at the Lagrangian Point L1.
The Chief designer of the Shenzhou spacecraft has stated in 2006 in an interview that:
Carrying out space programs are not just aimed at sending human into space per se,
but instead at enabling human to work in space normally,
also preparing for the future manned exploration of Mars and Saturn.
|200|100|CAS Academician Qi Faren
Among their stated longer term goals are: