The scope of mankind's activities has experienced expansion from land to ocean, from ocean to atmosphere, and from atmosphere to outer space. Space technology, which emerged in the 1950s, opened up a new era of man's exploration of outer space.
Having developed rapidly for about half a century, mankind's space activities have scored remarkable achievements, greatly promoted the development of social productivity and progress, and produced profound and far-reaching effects. Space technology has turned out to be one field of high technology that exerts the most profound influence on modern society. The continuous development and application of space technology has become an important endeavour in the modernisation drive of countries all over the world.
The Chinese nation created a glorious civilisation in the early stage of mankind's history. The gunpowder "rocket" invented by ancient Chinese was the embryo of modern space rockets. After the People's Republic of China was founded in 1949, China carried out space activities on its own, and succeeded in developing and launching its first man-made satellite in 1970. China has made eye-catching achievements, and now ranks among the world's most advanced countries in some important fields of space technology. In the 21st century, China will continue to promote the development of its space industry in the light of its national situation, and make due contributions to the peaceful use of outer space, and to the civilisation and progress of mankind.
At the turn of the century, it is of significance to give a brief introduction to the aims and principles, present situation, future development and international co-operation concerning China's space activities.
I. Aims and Principles
The Chinese government has all along regarded the space industry as an integral part of the state's comprehensive development strategy, and upheld that the exploration and utilisation of outer space should be for peaceful purposes and benefit the whole of mankind. As a developing country, China's fundamental tasks are developing its economy and continuously pushing forward its modernisation drive. The aims and principles of China's space activities are determined by their important status and function in protecting China's national interests and implementing the state's development strategy.
The aims of China's space activities are: to explore outer space, and learn more about the cosmos and the Earth; to utilise outer space for peaceful purposes, promote mankind's civilisation and social progress, and benefit the whole of mankind; and to meet the growing demands of economic construction, national security, science and technology development and social progress, protect China's national interests and build up the comprehensive national strength.
China carries out its space activities in accordance with the following principles:
II. Present Situation
Since its birth in 1956, China's space program has gone through several important stages of development: arduous pioneering, overall development in all related fields, reform and revitalisation, and international co-operation. Now it has reached a considerable scale and level. A comprehensive system of research, design, production and testing has been formed. Space centres capable of launching satellites of various types and manned spacecraft as well as a TT&C (Telemetry Tracking and Command) network consisting of ground stations across the country and tracking and telemetry ships are in place. A number of satellite application systems have been established and have yielded remarkable social and economic benefits. A space science research system of a fairly high level has been set up and many innovative achievements have been made. And a contingent of qualified space scientists and technicians has come to the fore.
China's space industry was developed on the basis of weak infrastructure industries and a relatively backward scientific and technological level, under special national and historical conditions. In the process of carrying out space activities independently, China has opened a road of development unique to its national situation and scored a series of important achievements with relatively small input and within a relatively short span of time. Now, China ranks among the most advanced countries in the world in many important technological fields, such as satellite recovery, multi-satellite launch with a single rocket, rockets with cryogenic fuel, strap-on rockets, launch of geo-stationary satellites and TT&C. Significant achievements have also been gained in the development and application of remote-sensing satellites and telecommunications satellites, and in manned spacecraft testing and space micro-gravity experiments.
1. Man-made Satellites: China's first man-made satellite, the "Dongfanghong-I" was successfully developed and launched on April 24, 1970, making China the fifth country in the world with such capability. By October 2000, China had developed and launched 47 satellites of various types, with a flight success rate of over 90%. Altogether, four satellite series have been initially developed in China, namely, recoverable remote-sensing satellites, "DFH (Dongfanghong)" telecommunications satellites, "FY (Fengyun)" meteorological satellites and "SJ (Shijian)" scientific research and technological experiment satellites. The "ZY (Ziyuan)" earth resource satellite series will come into being soon. China is the 3rd country in the world to have mastered the technology of satellite recovery, with the success rate reaching the advanced international level, and the 5th country capable of developing and launching geo-stationary telecommunications satellites independently. The major technological index of China's meteorological and earth resource satellites has reached the international level of the early 1990s. The six telecommunications, earth resources and meteorological satellites developed and launched by China in the past few years are in stable operation, and have generated remarkable social and economic returns.
2. Launching Vehicles: China has independently developed the "Long-March" rocket group, containing 12 types of launching vehicles capable of launching satellites to near-earth, geo-stationary and sun-synchronous orbits. The largest launching capacity of the "Long-March" rockets has reached 9,200 kg for near-earth orbit, and 5,100 kg for geo-stationary transfer orbit, able to basically meet the demands of customers of all kinds. Since 1985, when the Chinese government announced to put the "Long-March" rockets into the international commercial launching market, China has launched 27 foreign-made satellites into space, thus acquiring a share of the international commercial launching market. Up to now, the "Long-March" rockets have accomplished 63 launches, and made 21 consecutive successful flights from October 1996 to October 2000.
3. Launching Sites: China has set up three launching sites - in Jiuquan, Xichang and Taiyuan - which have successfully accomplished various kinds of test flights of launching vehicles and launches of a variety of satellites and experimental spacecraft. China's spacecraft launching sites are capable of making both domestic satellite launches and international commercial launches, and carrying out international space co-operation in other fields.
4. TT&C: China has established an integrated TT&C network comprising TT&C ground stations and ships, which has successfully accomplished TT&C missions for near-earth orbit and geo-stationary orbit satellites, and experimental spacecraft. This network has acquired the capability of sharing TT&C resources with international network, and its technology has reached the international advanced level.
5. Manned Spaceflight: Initiating its manned spaceflight program in 1992, China has developed a manned spacecraft and high-reliability launching vehicle, carried out engineering studies in aerospace medicine and aerospace life science, selected reserve astronauts and developed equipment for aerospace remote-sensing and aerospace scientific experiments. China's first unmanned experimental spacecraft - "Shenzhou"- was successfully launched and recovered November 20-21, 1999, symbolising a breakthrough in the basic technologies of manned spacecraft and a significant step forward in the field of manned spaceflight.
China attaches importance to developing all kinds of application satellites and satellite application technology, and has made great progress in satellite remote-sensing, satellite telecom and satellite navigation. Remote-sensing and telecommunications satellites account for about 71% of the total number of satellites developed and launched by China. These satellites have been widely utilised in all aspects of economy, science and technology, culture, and national defence, and yielded remarkable social and economic returns. Related departments of the state have also made active use of foreign application satellites for application technology studies, with satisfactory results.
1. Satellite Remote-Sensing: China began to use domestic and foreign remote-sensing satellites in the early 1970s, and eventually carried out studies, development and promotion of satellite remote-sensing application technology, which has been widely applied in meteorology, mining, surveying, agriculture, forestry, water conservancy, oceanography, seismology and urban planning.
To date, China has established the National Remote-Sensing Centre, National Satellite Meteorology Centre, China Resources Satellite Application Centre, Satellite Oceanic Application Centre and China Remote-Sensing Satellite Ground Station, as well as satellite remote-sensing application institutes under related ministries of the State Council, some provinces and municipalities and the Chinese Academy of Sciences. These institutions have made use of both domestic and foreign remote-sensing satellites to carry out application studies in weather forecasting, territorial survey, agricultural output assessment, forest survey, natural disaster monitoring, maritime forecasting, urban planning and mapping. The regular operation of the meteorological satellite ground application system, in particular, has greatly improved the accuracy of forecasting disastrous weather and significantly reduced the economic losses of the state and people from such weather.
2. Satellite Telecommunications: In the mid-1980s, China began to utilise domestic and foreign telecommunications satellites, and developed related technology to meet the increasing demands of the development of telecommunications, broadcasting and education. In the field of fixed telecom service, China has built scores of large and medium-sized satellite telecom earth stations, with more than 27,000 international satellite telephone channels connected to more than 180 countries and regions world-wide. The establishment of the domestic satellite public communication network, with more than 70,000 satellite telephone channels, has initially solved the problem of communication in remote areas.
The VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal) communication service has developed very rapidly in recent years. There are now in the country 30 domestic VSAT communication service providers and 15,000 small station users, including over 6,300 two-way users. More than 80 specialised communication networks for dozens of departments like finance, meteorology, transportation, oil, water resources, civil aviation, power, public health and the media have been built, with over 10,000 VSAT.
A satellite TV broadcasting system covering the whole world and a satellite TV education system covering the whole country have been established. China started to use satellites for TV broadcasting in 1985, and has formed a satellite transmission network with 33 telecommunications satellite transponders responsible for transmitting 47 TV programs and educational TV programs of CCTV (China Central Television) and local TV stations throughout the country, 32 programs of the Central Broadcasting Station domestically and abroad, and about 40 local broadcasting programs. Ever since the opening of satellite education TV broadcasting programs over a dozen years ago, more than 30 million people have got college or technical secondary school education and training through it.
China has also set up a satellite direct broadcasting experimental platform to transmit CCTV and local satellite TV programs by digital compression to the vast rural areas which wireless TV broadcasting cannot cover. In this way, China's TV broadcasting coverage has been greatly increased. China has about 189,000 satellite TV broadcasting receiving stations. The China broad-band multi-media education satellite transmission network has also been established on the satellite direct broadcasting experimental platform to provide comprehensive remote education and information technology services.
3. Satellite Navigation: In the early 1980s, China began to utilise other countries' navigation satellites and develop the application technology of satellite navigation and positioning, which is now widely used in many fields including land survey, ship navigation, aircraft navigation, earthquake monitoring, geological calamity monitoring, forest fire prevention and control, and urban traffic control. After joining the COSPAS-SARSAT in 1992, China established the Chinese Mission Control Centre, thus greatly improving the capability of the emergency alarm service for ships, aircraft and vehicles.
China started to explore the upper atmosphere using rockets and balloons in the early 1960s. In the early 1970s, China began to utilise the scientific exploration and technological testing satellites of the "SJ" group in a series of space explorations and studies, and acquired a large amount of valuable data about the space environment. Research on space weather forecasting and related international co-operation have also been carried out in recent years.
In the late 1980s, recoverable remote-sensing satellites were employed for various kinds of aerospace scientific experiments, and have yielded satisfactory achievements in crystal and protein growth, cell cultivation and crop breeding. Innovative achievements have been scored in the study of basic theory of space science. The establishment of advanced and open state-level laboratories specialising in space physics, micro-gravity and space life science, and the founding of the Space Payload Application Centre provide the country with the basic ability to support aerospace scientific experiments. The "SJ" group has been used in recent years to detect charged particles in terrestrial space and their effects. In addition, the first micro-gravity space experiment on double-layer fluid was accomplished, in which remote operation of space experiments was realised.
With the establishment and improvement of China's socialist market economic mechanism, the state guides the development of space activities through macro-control, makes overall plans for the development of space technology, space application and space science, promotes the R&D and system integration of important space technologies and the application of space science and technology in the fields of economy, science and technology, culture, and national defence. The state has also carried out reforms in the space science and technology industry to achieve sustainable development of the space industry.
The state has strengthened legislation work and policy management, enacted laws and regulations and promulgated industrial policies for the space industry to ensure orderly and standardised development of space activities. Research institutions, industrial enterprises, commercial enterprises and institutions of higher learning are encouraged to make full use of their advantages and participate in space activities under the guidance of the state's space policies.
The state supports renovation in space technology and the establishment of a space technological renovation system with Chinese characteristics, in the aim to improve the self-renovation capability and industrialisation of space activities. Space activities for public welfare and R&D work with commercial prospects are also supported by the state, and the state's supervision over space activities is being continuously strengthened. The China National Space Administration (CNSA) is China's governmental organisation responsible for the management of satellites for civilian use and inter-governmental space co-operation with other countries.
III. Future Development
The 21st century will witness vigorous development of space activities across the world. China is drafting a space development strategy and plans oriented to the 21st century according to the actual demands and long-term target of national development to spur the growth of the space industry.
The short-term development targets (for the next decade) are:
The long-term development targets (for the next 20 years or more) are as follows:
China develops its space activities with the following approaches:
IV. International Co-operation
China persistently supports activities involving the peaceful use of outer space, and maintains that international space co-operation shall be promoted and strengthened on the basis of equality and mutual benefit, mutual complementarity and common development.
The Chinese government holds that international space co-operation should follow the fundamental principles listed in the "Deceleration on International Co-operation on Exploring and Utilising Outer Space for the Benefits and Interests of All Countries, Especially in Consideration of Developing Countries' Demands," which was approved by the 51st General Assembly of the United Nations in 1996. China adheres to the following principles while carrying out international space co-operation:
The Chinese government adopts the following policies in developing international space co-operation:
China's participation in international space co-operation started in the mid-1970s. During the last two decades or more, China has joined bilateral, regional, multilateral and international space co-operation in different forms, such as commercial launching service, which have yielded extensive achievements.
1. Bilateral Co-operation: Since 1985, China has successively signed inter-governmental or inter-agency co-operative agreements, protocols or memorandums, and established long-term co-operative relations with a dozen countries, including the United States, Italy, Germany, Britain, France, Japan, Sweden, Argentina, Brazil, Russia, Ukraine and Chile. Bilateral space co-operation is implemented in various forms, from making reciprocal space programs and exchanges of scholars and specialists, and sponsoring symposiums, to jointly developing satellite or satellite parts, and providing satellite piggyback service and commercial launching service.
In 1993, a Sino-German joint venture - EurasSpace GmbH - was established, and a contract on the development and manufacture of Sinosat-1 was signed with DASA and Aerospeciale in 1995. Sinosat-1, which was successfully launched in 1998, was the first co-operative project on satellite development between the Chinese and European aerospace industries. The collaboration between China and Brazil on the project of an earth resources satellite is making good progress, and the first such satellite was successfully launched by China on October 14, 1999. In addition to co-operation on complete satellites, China and Brazil are co-operating in the areas of satellite technology, satellite application and satellite components. The co-operation between China and Brazil in the space sector has set a good example for the developing countries in "South-South Co-operation" in the high-tech field.
2. Regional Co-operation: China attaches great importance to space co-operation in the Asia-Pacific region. In 1992, China, Thailand, Pakistan and some other countries jointly sponsored the "Asian-Pacific Multilateral Space Technology Co-operation Symposium." Thanks to the impetus of such regional co-operation, the governments of China, Iran, the Republic of Korea, Mongolia, Pakistan and Thailand signed the "Memorandum of Understanding on Co-operation in Small Multi-Mission Satellite and Related Activities" in Thailand in April, 1998. Besides the signatory countries, other countries in the Asia-Pacific region may also join the co-operative project, which has helped to enhance the progress of space technology and space application in the Asia-Pacific region.
3. Multilateral Co-operation: In June 1980, China dispatched an observer delegation to the 23rd Meeting of UN COPUOS for the first time, and on November 3, 1980, China became a member country of the committee. Since then, China has participated in all the meetings of UN COPUOS and the annual meetings held by its Science, Technology and Law Sub-committee. In 1983 and 1988, China acceded to the "Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies," "Agreement on the Rescue of Astronauts, the Return of Astronauts and the Return of Objects Launched into Outer Space," "Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects," and "Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space," and has strictly performed its responsibilities and obligations.
China supports and has participated in the UN space applications program. Since 1988, China has provided other developing countries every year with scholarships for long-term space technology training. In 1994, together with ESCAP, China hosted in Beijing the first Asian-Pacific regional "Ministerial Conference on Space Applications for Sustainable Development in Asia and the Pacific," and the "Beijing Declaration" issued after the conference has had a far-reaching influence. In September 1999, in collaboration with the UN and ESA, the Chinese government held in Beijing the "Symposium on Promoting Sustainable Agricultural Development with Space Applications." From July to August 2000, together with the OOSA of the UN and ESCAP, relevant departments of the Chinese government opened the Short-term Training Course for Asia-Pacific Multilateral Co-operation in Space Technology and Applications. Trainees from ten developing countries in the Asia-Pacific region attended the course.
The issue of space debris is a big challenge to further expansion of space activities. The relevant departments in China pay great attention to the problem, and have carried out research on this issue with related countries since the beginning of the 1980s. In June 1995, CNSA acceded to the Inter-Agency Space Debris Co-ordination Committee. China will continuously make efforts to explore, together with other countries, ways and means to mitigate and reduce space debris, and promote international co-operation on this issue.
In addition, China has participated in multilateral co-operative projects, such as "Committee on Earth Observation Satellites," "World Weather Monitoring," "UN Decade of Disaster Mitigation," and "International Solar-Terrestrial Physics."
4. Commercial Launching Service: Ever since the Chinese government made the declaration in 1985 that China's "Long March" launching vehicles would serve the international market and provide international satellite launching service, up to October 2000, China had successfully launched 27 foreign-made satellites for users in Pakistan, Australia, Sweden, the United States, the Philippines, as well as domestic users. The service of "Long March" launching vehicles in the international satellite launching market is a beneficial supplement to international commercial satellite launching services, and it has provided foreign clients with new options.
Priority Co-operation Areas
The Chinese government will continuously render support to international exchanges and co-operation in space technology, space applications and space science, with priority being given to co-operation in the following areas: - Actively enhancing multilateral co-operation in space technology and applications in the Asian-Pacific region, and promoting regional economic growth and environmental and natural calamity monitoring with space technology.