On Oct. 8th, 1956, the founding of China's first rocket research institution—the fifth Academy of the Ministry of National Defense saw the birth of the China's space industry. The Academy worked by means of "self-dependency, seeking foreign assistance and taking advantage of developed countries existing techniques".
Based on 1957 New Technique Convention signed between China and former USSR, the former USSR would help China develop rocket research, establish testing institutes and clone USSR-made missiles by 1960. After former USSR experts withdrew and all assistance ceased, the first short range ground-to-ground missile modeled by China was successfully launched on November 5th 1960, marking a milestone in the history of Chinese rocket technology. The successful launch of the country's first self-developed liquid propulsion rocket in February 1962 was a key step in the history of China's space industry.
In June of 1964, the first self-developed ballistic missile was successfully launched, bringing the space industry to a new stage of development.
On November 23th, 1964, the State Council decided to set up the seventh Ministry of Machine-Building Industries. In April 1970, a Long March 1 rocket successfully launched the nation's first man-made satellite, Dongfanghong 1 and China became the fifth country capable of launching their own satellites with their own rockets.
In November 1975, a Long March 2 rocket successfully launched China's first recoverable satellite and the country became the third with the capacity to launch recoverable satellites, after America and the former USSR.
On April 13th, 1982, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China announced their desire for a Ministry of Space Industry. On July 5th, 1988, the Ministry of Aerospace Industry was founded. In June of 1993, China Aerospace Industry Corporation (National Space Bureau) was founded in Beijing.
By 1998, 16 recoverable satellites had been successfully launched by China, with a 100% recovery rate, which is a rare accomplishment for any space program.
In April 1984, a Long March 3 carrier rocket successfully launched the first domestically built communications satellite into geosynchronous orbit. This was taken as confirmation that China's carrier rocket technology had advanced to international levels. In October of the following year, it was announced that Chinese rockets had entered the international market, and were available to launch foreign satellites. In April of 1990, a Long March 3 rocket successfully launched the AsiaSat 1 satellite built by America's Hughes Company for Asia Satellite Telecommunications Holdings Limited. This was China's first commercial launch of a foreign satellite. When in May 1998, a modified Long March 2C rocket was successfully launched for the fourth time from the Taiyuan satellite launch center, China's competence in the commercial market place for medium and low-earth satellite launches was confirmed.
As of 1998, the Long March series of carrier rockets developed by China for commercial spaceflight included Long March 1, Long March 2, Long March 2C, Long March 3, Long March 4 and Long March E (Strap-on). The series has successfully launched a range of satellites with such applications as scientific exploration and technological experiment, remote sensing, meteorology, telecommunications and broadcasting. China has successfully made 44 space launches, and 50 man-made earth satellites were launched, including 17 from countries such as the US, Sweden, Australia, Pakistan, the Philippines, etc. China is at or near world levels in some important sectors of space technology.
For example, China is the third country capable of recovering satellites. China has mastered low-temperature and high-efficiency rocket technology, at the cutting edge of the technology. Rocket strap-on technology is one of the techniques necessary in developing large scale launch vehicles, and China has employed such technique since developing the large carrier rocket "Long March-2E". The initial "Long March 2E" was successfully launched in 1990. China is also one of the few countries capable of launching geostationary satellites, as well as launching more multiple satellites with only one rocket. China has formed a satellite observing and controlling network, the main part of which is the Xi'an Satellite Center, which handles observation and communication, and which also includes a dozen of surface-based observing stations and ocean-going tracking and measuring ships. At the same time, three satellite launch centers have been established in Jiuquan, Taiyuan and Xichang, which are capable of fulfilling the launch of various kinds of Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites, sun-synchronous satellites and geosynchronous satellites. China has made worthy contributions in the peaceful development of space technology.
By early 1994, a whole set of systems had been formed for the design, development, manufacturing and testing of satellites. Among the 270,000 employees, 40,000 are senior professionals, and 30 percent are engineers and researchers.
In 1994, in order to improve quality assurance, China Aviation Company pronounced March 22 "Aerospace Quality Day" to ensure problems do not arise in technology and management.
In 1996, China promoted a "responsible project managers system" in satellite development. Project managers are responsible for making technological decisions, directing administration, discipline and praise as well as domestic centralized project coordinating. This is an important reform in the managing mechanism of Chinese space technology.
(crienglish.com October 13, 2003)