New Rockets to Propel Country's Space Program

A new type carrier rocket project, listed as a high-tech priority in Premier Zhu Rongji's report on the 10th Five-Year Plan (2001-05), seems to have won approval from national legislators and experts.

Deputies at the ongoing National People's Congress (NPC) and industrial executives contacted by China Daily yesterday said the project will boost China's overall national strength and economic expansion, and help its aerospace plans.

For the first time, new type carrier rockets found their way into a draft five-year plan, which is usually delivered by the State Council premier to the NPC for discussion.

Embracing Premier Zhu's report, Shen Xinsun, a member of the Ninth NPC Standing Committee, said China needed to upgrade its launch rockets to meet ever-increasing demands for future spacecraft launches, including for space stations and satellites.

The country wants manned space flights and aims to develop space science and explore outer space in the first decade of the 21st century, according to the China's Space Activities, a policy document issued by the Information Office of the State Council last November.

Shen, also vice-chairman of the Science and Technology Commission of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp (CASC), said development of the new generation of rockets will narrow the gap between China and more advanced countries, and help the country develop on key high-tech fronts.

China has independently developed the "Long March" rocket group, which contains 12 types of launch vehicles capable of launching satellites into near-earth, geo-stationary and solar-synchronous orbits, according to Wang Liheng, a member of the Ninth National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, which concluded its session yesterday in Beijing.

The largest launch capacity for the "Long March" rockets is 9.2 tons for near-earth orbits and 5.1 tons for geo-stationary transfer orbits, said Wang, who is also CASC president.

"Right now they are able to basically meet the demands of customers," said Shen. "But with the development of China's economy and the world's commercial launch market, we need carrier rockets with non-toxic, non-polluting, high-performance and low-cost qualities."

"Now China has a matured technology to develop propellants made from liquid hydrogen, liquid oxygen and refined kerosene, which produces powerful propulsion and leaves no pollution or poison," said Li Fuchang, another rocket expert and vice-chairman of the Science and Technology Commission of the Chinese Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology.

Li said the new generation of launch vehicles will inherit the expertise and experience of the Long March series, but the near-earth-orbit launch capacity will range between 1.5 tons to 25 tons and the high-orbit capacity will range from 1.5 tons to 14 tons.

As to the technological viability of the new type rockets, both Shen and Li revealed that related research and development was begun several years ago, and China has made "breakthroughs in key areas."

Both declined to elaborate on what these were.

Liu Youguang, director of the Space Division under the China Great Wall Industrial Corp - the country's only company authorized to provide international launch services - yesterday said the development of new generation of launch vehicles will help sharpen the company's competitive edge on the global market.

Following a major setback in February 1996 with the failure of the maiden flight of its Long March 3B, the Great Wall Company has impressed the world by orchestrating 23 consecutive successful launches from October 1996. In the past decade, it has sent into orbit 27 foreign-made satellites, including ones from the United States, France and Brazil, according to Liu.

For Wu Kuiguang, an NPC deputy from southern Hainan Province, the news that the development of new-types of rockets is included in the country's new economic blueprint has a more practical dimension.

It indicates China will actively participate in the exploration and peaceful utilization of space, said the deputy.

Wu said he had submitted a proposal suggesting building a space launch site for international commercial launches in Hainan.

Compared with China's existing three launch sites in Jiuquan, Xichang and Taiyuan in western and northern landlocked regions, the proposed launch center in Hainan has the lowest latitude and is the nearest to the equator - the most desired factors leading to efficient launches, according to Wu.

Furthermore, Hainan, as an island province, has the advantage of sea transport links. This compares favorably to the railway transport used to service the current three interior launch bases, said Wu.

"The country's decision to support the development of new carrier rockets has increased Hainan's chances of getting its launch center project approved," said Wu.

(China Daily 03/13/2001)

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30 Satellites to Be Launched in Next Five Years

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China's Space Activities

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