Friday, December 30, 2011

China issues new space Five Year Plan

From a 2006 exhibit diorama, China's latest white paper reiterates the PRC will continue efforts aimed toward an eventual manned landing on the Moon [CNSA/CLEP].
Marcia S. Smith

China issued a new "white paper" today describing the achievements of its space program over the past 5 years and outlining its plans for the next 5 years.   China issued such white papers in 2000 and 2006, and the 2011 version offers little that is new.

According to the English-language version published on Xinhua's website, China has relatively modest plans for its space program, most of which were previously known.  No ground-breaking plans were revealed.

"In the next five years, China will strengthen its basic capacities of the space industry, accelerate research on leading-edge technology, and continue to implement important space scientific and technological projects, including human spaceflight, lunar exploration, high-resolution Earth observation system, satellite navigation and positioning system, new-generation launch vehicles, and other priority projects in key fields. China will develop a comprehensive plan for construction of space infrastructure, promote its satellites and satellite applications industry, further conduct space science research, and push forward the comprehensive, coordinated and sustainable development of China's space industry."

As China has indicated in the past, it is developing at least three new launch vehicles for various purposes.  A Delta-4 class launch vehicle, Long March 5, is expected to begin operations from a new launch site on Hainan Island in 2014.   Designed to place 25 tons into low Earth orbit or 14 tons into geostationary orbit, it will be the largest of China's space launch vehicles.  China also is developing a new small launch vehicle, Long March 6, and a new mid-sized rocket, Long March 7, both of which are mentioned in the white paper.  No plans for a heavy-lift launch vehicle were announced today, however.   Instead the white paper says only that China will "conduct special demonstrations and pre-research on key technologies for heavy-lift launch vehicles."

Assertions by Chinese "experts" quoted in the Chinese media over the past several years that China was planning to send taikonauts to the Moon in this decade appealed to those who wanted to catalyze another "Moon race," but could not be traced back to official government policy.   Today's document, which presumably represents official policy, says only that China will conduct studies "on the preliminary plan for a human lunar landing." 

Read the full story HERE.

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