SCIO briefing on white paper on China's space activities

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Wu Yanhua, vice head of China National Space Administration
Li Guoping, director of Department of System and Engineering, China National Space Administration

Xi Yanchun, vice director-general of the Press Bureau, State Council Information Office

Dec. 27, 2016

Chairperson Xi Yanchun:

Ladies and gentlemen, good morning. At today's press conference, we'll brief you on the main contents of the white paper regarding China's space activities in 2016 and the latest developments in China's space industry.

Today, we have with us here Mr. Wu Yanhua, vice head of China National Space Administration (CNSA), and Mr. Li Guoping, director of Department of System and Engineering, CNSA.

Now, please allow me to make a brief introduction of the white paper.

China has released one white paper on its space activities every five years since 2000. Today's version is the fourth one of its kind. It covers the main tasks and policies of China's space industry. It showcases the progress of China's major projects, including manned spaceflight, lunar exploration, the BeiDou Navigation System and high-resolution earth observation system. It displays our achievements in space science, space technology and space applications. It also explains the country's principles regarding space activities.

The white paper contains about 11,000 words. It's available in multiple languages, including Chinese, English, French, Russian, German, Spanish, Arabian and Japanese.

Now, let's give the floor to Mr. Wu.

Wu Yanhua:

It's a great pleasure to meet you, friends from the press. Thank you for your care and support for China's space industry.

The white paper, China's Space Activities in 2016, reiterates that the fundamental purpose of China's space industry is to explore, develop and utilize outer space for peaceful purposes. It summarizes the major progress China has achieved since 2011 and lays out the development priorities and policy measures for the next five years.

Since 2011, our space industry has witnessed rapid development and played a positive part in promoting scientific and technological progress, economic and social development, comprehensive national strength and human wellbeing.

First, we have achieved substantial results in space science and technology innovation. The country has made significant breakthroughs and mastered the core technologies needed for manned space missions. The Shenzhou 9 and Shenzhou 10 spaceships carried out a successful rendezvous and docking with the already-orbiting Tiangong-1 space lab, while Shenzhou 11 docked with Tiangong 2. Chang'e 3 achieved China's first soft- landing on an extra terrestrial body and carried out roving exploration on the moon, elevating China to a new level in space science and technology. The third phase of the Lunar Exploration Program achieved successful re-entry and landing. The BeiDou-2 Navigation Satellite System (BDS) is now fully developed and is providing users in the Asia-Pacific region with positioning navigation and accurate time services. Construction of the BDS global system has been fueled. Six high resolution Earth observation satellites were launched successfully and are now in use, filling a number of domestic technological gaps. We also successfully launched a number of scientific satellites, including Dark Matter Particle Explorer (DAMPE) and Quantum Experiments at Space Scale (QUESS), achieving a series of important scientific research results.

Second, China has greatly enhanced its capabilities in entering space. Between 2011 and November 2016, the Long March rockets accomplished 86 launches, with a success rate of 97.7 percent. The brand-new, large carrier rocket, Long March 5, which uses a non-toxic and pollution-free propellant, was successfully launched in November 2016 after 10 years of research and development. It represents the highest level achieved by China in scientific and technological innovation regarding carrier rockets. China has also successfully launched the newly developed small-load carrier rocket Long March 6 that also uses non-toxic, non-polluting fuel, a new-generation medium-lift Long March 7 and solid-fueled small-load Long March 11, thus laying a sound foundation for developing a whole series of next-generation carrier rockets.

Third, China has substantially improved its capabilities in space utilization. It has released a medium and long-term development plan for civil space infrastructure, initially shaping a key system based on remote sensing, communications and navigation. So far, China has more than 170 operating satellites in orbit and the nation has significantly improved its service capabilities. We are heavily engaged in building a satellite application system with an increasingly enhanced application level and expanded industrial scale. Space technology is playing an ever-increasing important role in the country's national economic and social development.

Fourth, China has greatly expanded international cooperation. Up to now, it has signed more than 100 cooperative agreements with over 30 countries, space institutes and international organizations. The China-Brazil Earth Resource Satellite-04 (CBERS-04) has gone into orbit, and research and development on the Sino-French SVOM (Space-based multi-band astronomical Variable Objects Monitor), the Sino-French Oceanography Satellite (CFOSAT) and the CSES (China Seismo-Electromagnetic Satellite) mission involving Chinese-Italian collaboration are going smoothly. China has completed five whole satellite export and in-orbit deliveries. It is taking the initiative to participate in the activities organized by 16 international organizations, including the United Nations Office of Outer Space Affairs (OOSA), International Charter on Space and Major Disasters (CHARTER) and Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC), and is playing an important role in multilateral cooperation. The guiding opinions on the construction and application of the "Belt and Road" Space Information Corridor have been issued. Broad consensus has been reached on the country's ideas for building a remote satellite constellation together with the BRICS countries and developing a multi-task, mini-satellite constellation with Asia-Pacific Space Cooperation Organization member countries.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the start of China's space industry and the government has set April 24 as China Space Day.

In order to build China into a space power, we hope to accomplish the following goals: making independent and controllable innovation, researching cutting-edge scientific applications, providing strong and continuous service for economic and social development, providing efficient and reliable guarantee for national security, managing scientific development efficiently, conducting mutual beneficial and win-win international communication and cooperation, building advanced and open aerospace science and technology industrial system, constructing stable and reliable space infrastructure, cultivating innovative talent team, and holding broad and profound spaceflight spirit.

In the following five years, we will promote integrated development of space science, space technology and space application. Key tasks include:

First, implement major space engineering and promote capabilities in independent innovation. We will accomplish several national scientific major special projects, including manned space flight, lunar exploration, BeiDou navigation, and high resolution Earth observation, and start several major aerospace engineering programs, including deep space exploration represented by Mars exploration, space-Earth integration information network, spacecraft on orbit service and maintenance system, and heavy lift lunch vehicle.

Second, construct space infrastructure and boost space technology application. We will implement mid- and long-term development plan of national space infrastructure, and strengthen space-based, ground-based and application systems. We will strongly promote satellite remote sensing, satellite communication, satellite navigation industrialization and scale development, strengthen satellite and application strategic emerging industries, accelerate new industry cultivation of "internet + satellite application," and create new economic growth point, so as to make more significant contribution to domestic economic construction and social development.

Third, enhance the study of space science and make original achievements. Targeting major frontier areas of space science and technology, we will implement a series of new space science satellite programs, establish a series of space science satellites featuring sustainable development, and reinforce basic application research. Major discoveries and breakthroughs are expected in the frontier areas of space science to further mankind's knowledge of the universe.

Fourth, comprehensively deepen the reform and foster a favorable environment for development. We will establish a diversified investment and funding system. The government will continue to make investments and encourage other kinds of investments to participate in space activities. We will accelerate the legislation to promote an orderly development of the industry. We will also promote reform in relevant enterprises and public institutions.

Fifth, intensify international exchange and bring benefits to mankind. We will actively participated in activities organized by the United Nations and other international organizations. We will promote the construction of the Belt and Road Initiative Space Information Corridor. We will accelerate the construction of BRICS remote-sensing satellite constellation and APSCO joint small multi-mission satellite constellation. We will also deepen the communication and cooperation in such fields as manned spaceflight, deep space exploration, space science, satellite communication, satellite remote-sensing, satellite navigation and monitoring and control of launching process. We will actively help Chinese enterprises to participate in international space activities and help Chinese space products "go global."

China is willing to carry out international space exchanges and cooperation, so that achievements in space activities will serve and improve the well-being of mankind in a wider scope, at a deeper level and with higher standards.

Xi Yanchun:

Mr. Wu Yanhua, thank you for your introduction. Now, we can take questions.


May I ask Mr. Wu Yanhua, compared with the last one, what features and highlights does this white paper have? Thank you.

Wu Yanhua:

Compared with the previous three white papers, the new one has changes and continuations. The continuations were reflected by: first, this white paper reiterates the missions for China to develop aerospace industry; second, the frame and structure of the text of the white paper remain the same with the previous three; third, the aerospace policies and international cooperation policies also keep a certain continuity.

The changes and highlights include:

First, we propose the goal of becoming a strong aerospace power for the first time. This year the Chinese government approved the establishment of April 24 as China's Aerospace Day. President Xi Jinping gave significant instructions and pointed the way clearly for the future development of China's aerospace industry. This fourth white paper came up with the vision of being strong aerospace power and depicted the vision in ten aspects regarding science and technology innovation abilities, scientific exploration, and science talents and teams.

Second, it tells the key missions for the next five years and a certain period of time in the future for aerospace development. Regarding major projects, the paper stated that China will continue implementing four existing significant programs, including manned space flight, moon expeditions, Beidou navigation system and high resolution earth observation systems. In addition, there will be new and influential projects to be launched in order to lead the development of China's aerospace causes. This white paper also indicates the transformation and upgrading in the aerospace domain. In the past, space technologies were used to drive the science research and promotion of utilization; in the new era, the space science and space application will exploit their full potentials to lead and promote innovative development in space technologies.

Third, the white paper further perfects the relevant policies and approaches. Regarding weakness and disadvantages, the paper proposes implementing the project to strengthen infrastructure and improve the basic capabilities of the aerospace technologies industry. It also proposes rapidly pushing forward the construction of a legal system and rules of aerospace area, which will make Chinese aerospace develop orderly and in a standardized way while following international space rules and performing international obligations.

Fourth, it identifies the key areas and key projects of international cooperation in the new era. In the aspect of key areas, first, China will support various activities to peacefully exploit outerspace within the United Nation's framework, and it will engage in several relevant activities; second, China has joined a dozen of intergovernmental and inter-non-governmental multilateral international organizations and initiated an Asia-Pacific space cooperation organization while working extensively with the European Space Agency; third, we will deepen bilateral cooperation. Regarding key projects, first we will start comprehensive cooperation with international organizations, enterprises and scientific research institutions in the areas of space science, space technologies and space applications; second, we will attach importance to building a "Belt and Road" space information corridor, pushing forward cooperation in remote sensing satellite constellation in certain relevant areas and perfecting the construction of space information corridor, especially for the implementation of the principles of wide consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits with relevant countries; third, in the aspects of technology innovation, talent training and laws and regulations, China will vigorously push forward cooperation in relevant products, technical services and relevant standards, and will support China's enterprises and institutions to go international.

Thank you.


Just now the speaker mentioned the goal of becoming one of the world's leaders in the space industry. Does China have any specific plan for achieving the vision? And what new space projects will be launched in the future? Moreover, the Long March 5 carrier rocket was launched successfully this year. Could you give us a brief introduction to the general arrangement of the heavy-lift carrier rocket and its development? Thanks.

Wu Yanhua:

Just now I have introduced the vision for development.

Generally, we hope we can finish important space projects and tasks under the framework of the 13th Five-Year Plan. Through the strengthening of the infrastructure project, we wish to fix the weaknesses which may hamper the development of our space industry. We wish to build relatively sound space infrastructure within ten years. We hope to become one of the leading space countries by 2030.

There are more details about the important projects and highlights for future space development in the white paper.

In January 2016, the Chinese government officially approved our first Mars probe mission, which indicates that the Chinese space probe will extend from the moon to the deeper universe. This is the common responsibility and obligation of people all over the world.

Next, I will give a brief introduction to the plans of our deeper space probe in the coming 10 and 15 years.

Firstly, we will probe planets like Mars, Jupiter etc. We will orbit Mars, land and deploy a rover on it, and we will collect samples of the surface of the Mars and bring them back to Earth for study.

Secondly, we are developing the Long March 9 – a new type of heavy-lift carrier rocket. We are in the phase of project feasibility study and key technology research.

Thirdly, we will build a space-ground integrated information network. Once it's established, there will be no obstacle for communication and transmission on Earth, and it is in accordance with the development of the 5G technology of the telecom industry.

Fourthly, we need to improve the on-orbit service and maintenance ability for the spacecrafts. Valuable geostationary satellites should be fixed when they are out of service.

Bloomberg News:

I'd like to ask if you could elaborate on the specific areas that the private sector will be encouraged to take part in. And my second question is: Will the government tap capital markets in order to fund these space programs? Thank you.

Wu Yanhua:

Since the beginning of this year, commercial aerospace has been unprecedentedly fueled as a new momentum for the development of world's space programs. The Chinese government has always advocated that space industry should be part of the national economy and contribute to undertakings concerning scientific advancement, economic progresses, social well-being and growths of comprehensive national strength.

First of all, let's start with the pertinent policies. In 2014, the State Council officially issued a circular to encourage diverse sources to fund the launches and applications of satellites.

Second, the Chinese government recently issued a negative list containing a few prohibited items to stipulate the rules for foreign investors to enter the Chinese market. There are very few items concerning the aerospace industry on the list. The national and international capital sources are encouraged to cover a variety of aerospace programs, such as the research, design and production of satellites and other supporting products.

Third, the white paper has elaborated on the policies related to commercial aerospace developments, showing the country's supportive views of the diverse capital sources, such as the private sector or the overseas investment. There are at least three enterprises with multiple stakeholders dedicated to the research and development of rockets for commercial use. Meanwhile, we also encourage the design and exploration of satellites as well as the development of key materials and single components. We'll make full use of cutting-edge space technologies and intellectual property rights, transforming them into products or programs conducive to people's wellbeing. We are still deliberating on the feasibility of opening the sectors such as commercial launches, testing and monitoring.

Phoenix TV:

Can you tell us what kind of measures will be taken to build up the talent pool for the country's space industry? Thank you.

Wu Yanhua:

We attribute the development of China's space industry to the strenuous efforts of generations of professional personnel, with Qian Xuesen, one of the most prominent founders of the country's space cause, as a role model. The development of the space industry is rooted in its talents. To disseminate space knowledge and attract more people to join the space industry, the government established an annual "China Space Day" from this year.

We plan to take the following measures to build up the talent pool:

Firstly, we will take great efforts to promote the "Spirit of the Manned Space Program" and overall space culture among elementary and secondary school students, inspiring their enthusiasm for science and motivating them to explore the unknown.

Secondly, the space industry plays a leading role in advancing science and technology and applying cutting-edge research fruits covering various fields such as physics, chemistry, electronics, etc. Many domestic universities are working to establish an astronautics department. The growing space industry is also driving basic science and theoretical study further.

Thirdly, the space industry itself is a high-level talent entity. We need world-class scientists, leading engineers and technicians, senior business managers and high-caliber entrepreneurs, as well as experts in international cooperation. Everyone needs to sharpen themselves in the rapidly growing industry and related areas.


What contribution can China's space development make to the Belt and Road Initiative? Thank you.

Wu Yanhua:

We are mainly promoting the construction and application of the Belt and Road Initiative Space Information Corridor.

First, we will jointly build the space information corridor to promote interconnectivity. Based on the already-orbiting satellites and those in the planning stage, China will work together with countries along the Belt and Road to complement and improve the space-based and ground system. In simple terms, the improvement of space infrastructure mainly focuses on the three satellite series, primarily remote sensing satellites, communication satellites and BeiDou navigation satellites, which will provide space information services and better information connectivity for countries in the region. The space-ground integrated information network I introduced just now can cover the countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative. The BRICS remote-sensing satellite constellation proposed by the China National Space Administration has also been warmly welcomed by our counterparts in the other four countries. When one country contributes a satellite, and shares it with other countries, then everyone can get data from the five satellites, producing what we like to call win-win cooperation.

Second, we will improve information-sharing. In satellite application, China will continue to exchange and cooperate with countries along the Belt and Road in terms of disaster prevention and reduction, ecological and environmental protection, climate change, sustainable development, and other major problems that might emerge. We will work together to build a space information service platform to tackle major socioeconomic challenges.

Third, we will deepen cooperation in the space industry and boost unimpeded trade. Space technology can do much to promote cutting-the-edge industries and scale production. Based on the characteristics of countries in the region, we will develop relevant space technology with appropriate industrial applications. With ever-intensifying technological applications, countries along the Belt and Road can get closely involved in promoting the Space Information Corridor and enable the space industry become a new growth point for national economic development.

For more information, you can check out the Guiding Opinion of Advancing the Construction and Application of the Belt and Road Initiative Space Information Corridor. Thank you.


Thank you for taking my question. I'm from Reuters. You've previously spoken about putting a man on the moon. Is there still a plan for this, and if so, what's the deadline?

Wu Yanhua:

The world is closely watching the exploration of the moon. There are three phases of lunar exploration in human history. The first was carried out by the United States and the Soviet Union, which culminated with the landing of American astronaut Neil Armstrong on the moon in 1969.

The second phase consisted of explorations conducted mainly by the U.S., Russia (the Soviet Union) and Europe with the aim of studying space science. China and India also carried similar missions.

Currently, lunar exploration work is in the emerging and developing stage of the third phase. Russia, Europe, China, Japan and India are all carrying out related research. The United States announced it would focus on Mars exploration, but moon-related technologies are still needed in order to go to the Mars, including the possible construction of a pit stop on the moon.

China National Space Administration has formulated plans for future lunar exploration. The last phase of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program will be completed in 2017, namely, launching Chang'e 5, realizing soft landing on the moon, collecting lunar samples and returning them to the Earth. Currently, everything is well under way. We will also research and launch Chang'e 4, which will be the world's first probe on the far side of the moon. A relay satellite will also be launched at the Earth-moon L2 point, which will be used in relaying signals and providing service for explorations of the moon and even deep space. Additionally, we will also carry out robotic exploration of the south and north poles of the moon twice in the next five and ten years.

As to sending man to the moon, we are studying the feasibility of the related plans. Thanks for your question.

Chairperson Xi Yanchun:

Thank you all. This is the end of the press conference.

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