Since its founding in 1956, China’s astronautics industry has opened up a development road with its own characteristics. At present, as the fifth country in the world to develop and launch man-made satellites independently, and the third country to master satellite recovery technology, China has come out in front in many important technological fields, such as the recovery of satellites, the carrying of several satellites by one rocket, rocket technology, and the launching, test and control of static-orbit satellites. Great achievements have been made in the development and application of remote-sensing satellites and communications satellites, and in manned spaceship experiments.
—Man-made earth satellites. From April 1970, when its first man-made satellite “Dongfanghong No. 1” was launched, to October 2000, China had successfully launched 74 satellites, including 47 developed by China itself and 27 commercial satellites for foreign customers. During the 10th Five-Year Plan period (2001-2005), China will launch about 50 percent of the total satellites it has launched in the past 30 years, and these will include 15 types of satellites, such as communications, navigation, meteorological, resource remote-sensing and space survey satellites.
—Carrier rockets. China has developed the “Long March” series of carrier rockets, in 12 models. Now China is able to launch low-earth orbit, geostationary orbit and sun-synchronous orbit satellites and spaceships. The rate of successful launching reaches more than 90 percent. In the next step, China will develop a new carrier rocket series. By January 2001, the “Long March” series carrier rockets had made 65 launchings. Since October 1996, China has made 23 successful launchings in a row. The Jiuquan, Xichang and Taiyuan satellite launching centers built up by China itself have become world-renowned modern launching sites.
—Manned spacecraft. On March 25, 2002, China successfully launched the “Shenzhou III” Spaceship developed by China on its own, from the Jiuquan Satellite Launching Center. It was the third experiment in China’s manned space engineering efforts (the first experiment being made in November 1999), which was fulfilled by the “Long March II F” carrier rocket, with similar technologies to that of a manned spaceship. Since 1992, when China decided to carry out the manned space engineering project, the astronautics research departments have mastered a large number of key technologies. In future, China will launch a number of unmanned spaceships, and then its first manned spaceship. At present, the training of astronauts is being undertaken according to plan.