Status: Study 1959.
Abandoned when Soviet technical assistance was withdrawn and it became clear that no Chinese space launch vehicle could be ready on such a timescale.
Tsien and his colleagues set an initial goal of launching a satellite by the end of 1959. They see no reason to copy the antiquated R-2 missile being transferred from Russia, and want to make a great leap to an intermediate range missile capable of serving as the first stage of a satellite launcher. It very quickly becomes that this is much too ambitious and totally impossible.
The Soviet Central Committee advises China it will not provide prototype or drawings of atomic bombs as agreed previously. Khrushchev promised China that he would provide the drawing package for the R-12 IRBM as soon as testing was completed. However then came the affair of the Sidewinder. At the end of 1958 or early 1959 a complete missile fell into the hands of the Chinese. They promised to provide it to the Russians, but then dragged their feet. They were finally told in February 1959 that unless they provided the Sidewinder, they would not be given the R-12 package. The missile was finally delivered but it was found that the key crystal in the infrared homing sensor was missing. The Chinese had also been caught disassembling a P-15 cruise missile at a training facility in China. It had taken the Russian trainers two days to get it reassembled correctly. Therefore on June 20 1959 the decision was taken not to transfer the R-12 or the promised nuclear warhead design to China.
The Soviets created a new design bureau to copy the Sidewinder. Fabrication of the crystal for the infrared sensor was the main obstacle. The initial production batches had a 99% rejection rate. A state commission was set up to get to the bottom of the problem, but couldn't find a solution. The main problem seemed to be low-quality ore provided by the mines.
14 manufacturers and 1400 industrial work units were needed to manufacture the R-2 engines alone. Basic materials were difficult to get. Some were imported; others substituted. Eventually 40% of the parts of the missile used substitute materials, but many of these replacements proved to be inadequate. Machine tools were not available, and the missile frame was formed manually by human muscle power. Inert gas arc welding technology had to be developed. Soviet style factories were being erected for the production of the missile.