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 revitalization, and international cooperation. Now it has reached a considerable scale and level. A comprehensive system of research, design, production and testing has been formed. Space centers 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 cooperation 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, symbolizing 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 utilized in all aspects of economy, science and technology, culture, and national defense, 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 Center, National Satellite Meteorology Center, China Resources Satellite Application Center, Satellite Oceanic Application Center 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 utilize 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 worldwide. 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 specialized 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 utilize 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 Center, 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 utilize 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 cooperation 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 specializing in space physics, micro-gravity and space life science, and the founding of the Space Payload Application Center 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 realized.
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 defense. 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 standardized 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 industrialization 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 organization responsible for the management of satellites for civilian use and inter-governmental space cooperation with other countries.