China’s first cargo spacecraft Tianzhou-1 boosts space dream


China’s first cargo spacecraft, Tianzhou-1, was launched successfully at 7:41 pm Beijing Time Thursday, a crucial step for the country to build a space station by approximately 2022.

Lifted by a Long March-7 Y2 carrier rocket, Tianzhou-1 roared into space from Wenchang Space Launch Center in Hainan Province on Thursday evening.

The cargo ship will dock with the orbiting Tiangong-2 space lab, provide fuel and other supplies, and conduct space experiments before falling back to Earth. The launch of Tianzhou-1 was a “zero-window” mission, which means it had to be launched at precisely 7:41:28 pm, with no room for error, China Central Television reported.

The cargo ship is 10.6 meters long and has a maximum diameter of 3.35 meters. Its maximum takeoff weight is 13.5 tons, allowing it to carry over 6 tons of supplies. Tianzhou-1 is larger and heavier than Tiangong-2, which is 10.4 meters in length and has a maximum diameter of 3.35 meters, weighing 8.6 tons, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

“Tianzhou-1’s cargo usually includes space food, medicine, water and so on, for three people’s use for 30 days, but this time it is a unmanned flight, so we put simulated cargo that weighs the same in the spacecraft,” Huang Weifen, deputy chief designer of China’s manned space project astronaut system, told the Global Times.

The biggest challenge of this mission is that new spacecraft, new rockets and the new launch site need to match each other, Xu said. When Tianzhou-1 completes its mission, it will make an automatic destructive re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere.

“This shows that China’s environmental awareness of space has improved, and this is a good attempt to reduce space junk. Tianzhou-1 will fall into the South Pacific under our control when its mission ends,” Xu said.


Advanced technology

Bai Mingsheng, chief designer of the cargo ship, told Xinhua that the cargo aboard the spacecraft weighs almost the same as the ship, exceeding the load capacity of Russian cargo ships in active service. If the Tianzhou-1 mission is successful, China will become the third country besides Russia and the US to master the technique of refueling in space.

“In general, Tianzhou-1’s technology is definitely in the first-class around the globe, at the same stage as Russia and the US. Although Europe and Japan also have their own cargo spacecraft and their payload capacity is bigger than Tianzhou-1, they heavily rely on US and Russian technological support in various aspects,” Song Zhongping, a military expert who served in the Second Artillery Corps (now known as the PLA Rocket Force), told the Global Times on Thursday.

From launch to automatic destruction, China’s Tianzhou-1 doesn’t need to rely on any other country’s facilities or technology, and compared to the US’ Cygnus and Dragon, its payload capacity is bigger and technologically more reliable and advanced in general, Song said.

Space ambition

China aims to build a permanent space station that is expected to orbit for at least 10 years, and the maiden voyage of the cargo ship is important as it will be a courier to help maintain the space station. Without a cargo transportation system, the station would run out of power and basic necessities, causing it to fall back to Earth before the designated time, Xinhua reported.

Currently, the only space station is the International Space Station (ISS), which was mainly pushed by the US and Russia and was launched in 1998. It should reach the end of its mission in 2020, but the US and Russia might decide to extend its lifetime a little bit, Song said.

According to previous reports in the Global Times, in order to prevent China from sharing in advanced space technology, the US always refused any attempt from China to join the ISS program, despite efforts China made in 2000.

“But we are going to have our own space station very soon. After 2020, China’s Tiangong will very likely become the only space station in service, and will provide services to more developing countries so more countries can benefit from humanity’s achievements in space technology,” Song said.

Source: By Liu Yang in Wenchang and Yang Sheng in Beijing Source:Global Times Published: 2017/4/21 0:08:39

First cargo spacecraft boosts China’s space dream

WENCHANG, Hainan, April 20 (Xinhua) — China has taken another step toward its goal of putting a space station into orbit around 2022, by sending its first cargo spacecraft Tianzhou-1 into space on Thursday evening.

Atop a Long March-7 Y2 carrier rocket, Tianzhou-1 rose into the air from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in south China’s Hainan Province at 7:41 p.m.

China declared the launch a success after it entered designated orbit minutes later.

The cargo ship will dock with the orbiting Tiangong-2 space lab where two Chinese astronauts spent 30 days in the country’s longest-ever manned space mission, provide fuel and other supplies to the latter, as well as conduct space experiments before falling back to Earth.

If the Tianzhou-1 mission is successful, China will become the third country besides Russia and the United States to master the technique of refueling in space.

China aims to build a permanent space station that is expected to orbit for at least 10 years, and the debut of the cargo ship is important as it acts as a courier to help maintain the space station.

Without a cargo transportation system, the station would run out of power and basic necessities, causing it to return to Earth before the designated time.

“The Tianzhou-1 mission includes the breakthrough of in-orbit refueling and other key technology needed to build a space station, laying a foundation for future space station operations,” said Bai Mingsheng, chief designer of the cargo ship.

THREE DOCKINGS

Measuring 10.6 meters long and boasting a maximum diameter of 3.35 meters, the Tianzhou-1 cargo ship has a maximum takeoff weight of 13.5 tonnes, and could carry over 6 tonnes of supplies.

Tianzhou-1 is larger and heavier than Tiangong-2, which is 10.4 meters in length and has a maximum diameter of 3.35 meters, weighing 8.6 tonnes.

Bai said that supplies loaded on the cargo spacecraft are nearly as heavy as the ship’s own weight, exceeding the loading capacity of Russian cargo ships in active service.

Tianzhou-1 will dock with Tiangong-2 three times, said Bai. After the first docking, aerospace engineers will test the controlling ability of the cargo spacecraft over the two spacecraft.

The second docking will be conducted from a different direction, which aims to test the ability of the cargo ship to dock with the space station from different directions.

In the last docking, Tianzhou-1 will use fast-docking technology. Previously, it took China about two days to dock, while fast docking will take about six hours, according to Bai.

Refueling is conducted during docking, a process that is much more complicated than refueling vehicles on land.

The refueling procedure will take 29 steps and last for several days each time.

This means the Tianzhou-1 will stay in space for about six months. It will fall into a designated sea area after fulfilling its tasks.

SUPPORTING SPACE STATION

Space cargo ships play a crucial role in the maintenance of a space station.

Cargo ships can send all kinds of supplies to the space station which can be an experiment field for developing technology in space.

Huang Weifen, a deputy chief designer of the Astronaut Center of China, said that supplies carried by Tianzhou-1 include goods that will meet the basic living and working needs of three astronauts for 30 days in space, including drinking water, oxygen bottles and nitrogen bottles.

Also onboard include facilities for microorganism tests, and sensors are installed to obtain data such as mechanics and temperature for the future design of the space suit outside a spacecraft.

“We hope to gather relevant data through this mission and accumulate experience for sending material for the future space station,” she said.

VISION OF SPACE POWER

Although China has achieved many giant steps in space exploration, the country’s space odyssey is far from over as it eyes building its own space station and far beyond that: landing on Mars.

In 1992, the central authority approved a three-step manned space program.

The first step, to send an astronaut into space and return safely, was fulfilled by Yang Liwei in Shenzhou-5 mission in 2013.

The second step was developing advanced space flight techniques and technologies including extra-vehicular activity and orbital docking.

The final step will be able to operate a permanent manned space station.

Chinese scientists said they plan to launch a core module of the country’s first space station around 2018, followed by two experiment modules.

The station in the primary stage will be composed of three modules: core module, experiment module I and experiment module II. Each module will weigh more than 20 tonnes and together the three will be structured in the shape of T. The core module will be in the middle with an experiment module on each side.

During its operation, the space station could be linked to one additional cargo ship and two manned spacecraft at one time, and the maximum weight of the whole assembly could reach up to 90 tonnes.

Based on such design, scientists will keep updating capsules in accordance with scientific research and extend their abilities.

With the International Space Station set to retire in 2024, the Chinese space station will offer a promising alternative, and China will be the only country with a permanent space station.

So far, China has successfully launched 11 Shenzhou series spacecraft, including six manned spacecraft that lifted 11 astronauts into space.

The country strives to realize the third step of its lunar program in 2017: sending Chang’e-5 lunar probe onto the moon which will return with samples.

Source: Xinhua| 2017-04-20 21:17:45|Editor: Mu Xuequan

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Graphics shows launch procedure of China’s first cargo spacecraft Tianzhou-1

Graphics shows the launch procedure of China’s first cargo  spacecraft Tianzhou-1 on April 20, 2017. (Xinhua/Ma Yan)

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Investing in minds to stop brain drain


Beijing lures back foreign graduates with lucrative offers

BEIJING: As a young biologist at the University of Michigan, Chen Xiaowei had plenty to like about life in the United States.

He was paid well as a researcher and enjoyed raising his family in Ann Arbor, a town he remembers as beautiful, friendly and highly educated.

But an offer from a Chinese university for him to return home to Beijing was too generous not to consider.

In addition to a comparable salary, he was promised enough startup research money that he wouldn’t have to worry about pursuing grants.

So in 2014 he moved back with his wife and two children.

“I feel freer to pursue my best ideas,” Chen said.

He said he has received such generous support that he’s able to study a disease through symptoms in both the liver and muscles simultaneously – something he said he would not be able to do in the United States because of limitations on grants, which are often tied to projects instead of researchers.

Chen, who earned a doctorate in physiology at Michigan in 2008, has joined thousands of high achieving overseas Chinese recruited to come home through the 1,000 Talents programme, one of many state efforts to reverse a decades long brain drain.

China, the world’s second-largest economy and one of the fastest growing, sees a need to bring home more of its brightest as it works to transform its largely labourintensive, lowtech economy into one fuelled by innovation in science and technology.

More than 300,000 Chinese studied in the US alone in the 2014-2015 school year.

Most of those students return to China, but the country has had difficulty regaining the most coveted graduates – those with advanced degrees and experience in science and engineering.

A 2014 report by Oak Ridge Institute shows 85% of the 4,121 Chinese students who received doctorates in science and engineering from American universities in 2006 were still in the US five years later.

The 1,000 Talents programme offers recruits salaries several times more than what a Chineseeducated local hire would receive, as well as heavily subsidised education for children and millions in startup research funds. The signup bonus alone can be as much as US$150,000 (RM605,850).

Chen, now an assistant professor at Peking University, was given a US$1.5mil (RM6.05mil) research fund.

“In the States,” he said, “it’s very hard for young people to get money when they need it the most.” — AP

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China’s new generation carrier rocket blasts off in Wenchang, Hainan province


Video:  https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/5594IBy2qQA

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/iu0aAH-C2p0

A Long March-7 carrier rocket lifts off from Wenchang Satellite Launch Center, south China’s Hainan Province, June 25, 2016. [Photo: Xinhua/Li Gang]

Insight: Successful rocket launch gets China one step closer to own space station

WENCHANG, Hainan, June 25 (Xinhua) — China on Saturday successfully blasted off its new generation carrier rocket Long March-7 from Wenchang space launch center in south China’s Hainan province.

In a cloud of white smoke, the rocket ascended against the dark sky, trailing a vast column of flame. Space fans in specially set up viewing areas erupted with applause.

Minutes later, Zhang Youxia, commander-in-chief of China’s manned space program, declared the launch a success.

The rocket’s payload separated from the rocket 603 seconds after blast-off, and entered an oval orbit with a low point, or perigee, of 200 kilometers, and a high point, or apogee, of 394 kilometers.

The launch is the first by the Wenchang site, and the 230th of China’s Long March carrier rocket family.

Its mission is to verify the design and performance of the new carrier rocket, to evaluate mission execution capacity of the Wenchang launch site, and to check coordination and compatibility of project-related systems.


NEW CARRIER

The Long March-7 is a medium-sized, two-stage rocket that can carry up to 13.5 tonnes to low-Earth orbit (LEO).

Earlier reports said the rocket now uses kerosene and liquid oxygen as fuel, rather than the highly toxic propellant, making it more environmental friendly and less expensive.

Experts forecast that the 53.1-meter-long, 597-tonne rocket will become the main carrier for China’s future space missions.

Its 13.5-tonne LEO payload capacity means it can carry 1.5 times as much as the country’s current launch vehicles.

“The more our rockets can lift, the farther we can venture into space,” said Ma Zhonghui, chief designer for the rocket.

“Long March-7’s successful maiden flight will greatly lift up China’s comprehensive space capacity, and give the country a hefty boost in building itself into a space power,” he said.

In many senses, the blast-off of the Long March-7 is of key importance to China’s space programs, deemed by many a source of surging national pride and a marker of its global stature and technical expertise.

The rocket’s payload includes a scaled-down version of “a reentry module of a multi-function spacecraft,” said Wu Ping, a deputy director with China’s manned space program.

Wu said the 2,600-kg re-entry module is expected to return to Earth on Sunday afternoon, some 20 hours after the Long March-7 launch.

It is expected to land in a desert in China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, close to the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center.

Data collected from the re-entry experiment will help with future research on a new generation manned spacecraft, Wu said.

WHAT’S ABOARD

Also onboard the Long March-7 rocket are an “Aolong-1” space debris clearer, two “Tiange” data relay spacecraft, a CubeSat designed to study Earth’s gravitational field and space radiation, and a space refueling device that could be used to resupply satellites and space stations to extend their operating life spans.

After being separated from the Long March-7, they will be carried into different orbits onboard an upgraded “space shuttle bus” Yuanzheng-1A, tasked to send these spacecraft in the next 48 hours using its own power system.

Saturday’s launch also marks a key step towards China’s plan to eventually operate a permanent space station in the final step of the country’s three-phase manned space program.

The country launched its first manned spaceflight in 2003, and blasted off its first space lab Tiangong-1 in 2011.

The next and final step will be to assemble and operate a 60-tonne space station around 2022.

To do that, Chinese engineers have planned four space launches within ten months till April next year, of which the Long March-7 mission is the first.

A second mission in late September will put the Tiangong-2 space lab into orbit, and the third one will see the Shenzhou-11 spacecraft, which will carry two Taikonauts, dock with Tiangong-2 in October.

In April 2017, the country’s first cargo ship Tianzhou-1, which literally means “heavenly vessel,” will be sent to dock with Tiangong-2 in the final mission.

NEW LAUNCH SITE

Wenchang will be the main launch site for future space station missions, including the launch of Tianzhou-1.

Completed in 2014, the Wenchang launch site is the the fourth of its kind in China.

Among the other three, Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Dessert is currently the nation’s only manned spacecraft launch center, while Xichang in southwest China’s Sichuan Province is mainly used to launch powerful-thrust rockets and geostationary satellites.

The third, Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in north China’s Shanxi Province, is capable of launching satellites into both medium and low orbits.

Being the closest site to the equator, Wenchang boasts considerable latitudinal advantages – Satellites launched from low latitudes are expected to have a longer service life as a result of the fuel saved by a shorter maneuver from transit to geosynchronous orbit. That extra fuel can later be used to regulate and sustain orbit.

This means rockets launched in Wenchang could will allow their payload to be increased by more than 300 kg, 7.4 percent more than from any of the other three centers.

By Wang Cong, Fu Shuangqi Xinhua

China’s New Carrier Rocket to Launch 1st Cargo Spacecraft in 2017

The latest version of China’s carrier rocket, the Long March-7, has been successfully launched from the Wenchang launch center in Hainan.

Long March-7 is going to be used mostly to transport cargo to China’s future space stations, as well as satellites and other spacecraft.

Saturday’s launch marks a key step towards China’s plan to eventually operate a permanent space station, which is the final step of China’s three-phased manned space program.

The Long March-7 rocket has been designed as a cargo spacecraft, and is set to haul most of the components for China’s planned space station.

Wu Ping is deputy director of the China Manned Space Engineering Office.

“The Long March-7 project began in January 2011 as a baseline model for China’s latest generation of medium-sized carrier rockets. According to the plan, the Long March-7 is expected to launch China’s first cargo spacecraft in April 2017. During the construction and operation of the space station, the rocket and the cargo spacecraft will serve as a transport system to replenish supplies and propellant for the station.”

The 53-meter, 597-ton, liquid-fueled rocket can carry up to 13.5 tons into low-Earth orbit.

Wang Xiaojun, General Director of the Long March-7 Project, says getting the Long March-7 active is critical in meeting the goal of getting a space station running by 2022.

“The Long March-7 carrier rocket uses kerosene and liquid oxygen as fuel and a low-temperature pressurization system. Powered by six engines, it has a takeoff thrust of 730 tons and can carry 1.5 times as much as the current launch vehicles, which means a significant step forward in our country’s rocket development project.”

The Wenchang Satellite Launch Center is the fourth of its kind in China, after the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Gansu, the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan and the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in Shanxi.

Located on China’s southernmost point, the Wenchang center allows better access to geostationary orbit for Chinese satellites.

It will be the main launch site for most future space station missions.

Wang Jingzhong, CPC chief of the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan, says the Wenchang launch site in Hainan will help relieve a lot of pressure off their facility.

“The center will be used for the launch of geosynchronous satellites, large polar orbiting satellites, low and medium Earth orbit spacecraft, cargo spacecraft, space stations, as well as deep space exploration and other missions. It will also be used during the third phase of China’s lunar exploration program and the launch of the Chang’e-5 probe.”

Meanwhile, Chinese space officials are suggesting the Long March-5 rocket series is also going to make its debut later this year from the Wenchang facility.

Those rockets are designed for long-range space missions.

It’s expected to carry the Chang’e-5 lunar probe into space sometime next year, which will finish China’s three-step — orbiting, landing and return — moon exploration program.

China will also send its second orbiting space lab Tiangong-2 into space this year, as well as launch the Shenzhou-11 manned spacecraft.

As part of China’s space lab program, the Shenzhou-11 spacecraft will carry two astronauts on board to dock with Tiangong-2.

The two astronauts have already been chosen and are currently under intense training. – (CRI Online)

Related: 

China to launch second space lab Tiangong-2 in SeptemberChina to launch second space lab Tiangong-2 in September  2016

China will send its second orbiting space lab Tiangong-2 into space in mid September, said a senior official with manned space program.

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BDS, the Beidou Navigation Satellite System from China


https://www.youtube.com/embed/4cjicmbU138

https://www.youtube.com/embed/Ra3X5ukQmNw

China launches 23rd BeiDou satellite into space – CCTV News – CCTV.com English

http://t.cn/R5SsGFc


China eyes Silk Road countries for its Beidou satellite system

18 satellites to launch for BDS by 2018

China on Thursday vowed national efforts to complete its Beidou satellite navigation system to serve global users by 2020, with priority going to countries involved in the new Silk Road initiative.

The current goal of developing China’s BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS) is to “provide basic services to countries along the land and maritime Silk Roads and in neighboring regions by 2018, and to complete the constellation deployment of 35 satellites by 2020 to provide services to global users,” said a white paper released Thursday by the State Council Information Office.

A “globalized” BDS would have “positive and practical significance” in terms of connectivity around the globe, especially the interconnection between China and Southeast Asian countries under the Silk Road plan, known as the Belt and Road initiative, Huang Jun, a professor at the School of Aeronautic Science and Engineering at Beihang University, told the Global Times on Thursday.

In line with the Belt and Road initiative, China will jointly build satellite navigation augmentation systems with relevant nations and promote international applications of navigation technologies, the white paper states.

To fulfill the 2018 goal, the country plans to launch some 18 satellites for the BDS by 2018, Ran Chengqi, BDS spokesperson, told a press conference on Thursday.

“In priority Chinese cities such as Beijing and Urumqi in Northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, as well as low latitude countries like Thailand, the BDS is capable of offering a positioning accuracy of better than five meters,” said Ran, who is also director of China’s Satellite Navigation System Management Office.

Since 2015, the country has sent up seven more satellites into space in support of the BDS, including five navigation satellites and two backup satellites, Ran added, citing Sunday’s launch of the BDS’ 23rd satellite – a backup satellite – as an example.

In 2020, the BDS might offer different positioning accuracy choices and could provide centimeter-level accuracy under certain requirements, said Lu Weijun, a BDS expert at Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications.

Unique features

Despite being a late starter compared with the US-developed GPS, China’s BDS has unique features, Huang said, citing the BDS short-message communication service as an example.

“The short-message communication service is mainly useful in places with insufficient ground and mobile communication capabilities, such as deserts, seas and disaster areas where communication facilities have been destroyed,” Lu told the Global Times.

More than 40,000 fishing vessels along China’s coastline have been equipped with the BDS application terminals, Ran said, adding that they also provided better communication for islands near the coastline.

The BDS short-message communication service is mainly handled by five Geostationary Orbit (GEO) satellites, Lu said. Located above China, the five GEO satellites mainly serve a coverage area of Chinese territories and the Asia-Pacific region” and “could be used to locally enhance the signal in wartime, when other satellites might have been closed.”

An independently designed global navigation and positioning network would also contribute to national security, Huang said.

Industrial chain

China is developing chips, modules and other basic products based on the BDS and other compatible systems, and fostering an independent BDS industrial chain, the white paper noted.

“By the end of April, the BDS technology has been applied to more than 24 million terminals and over 18 million mobile phones,” Ran said.

It is expected that by the end of this year, up to 50 million mobile phones will have been installed with domestic chips that will be compatible with three satellite navigation systems, namely the BDS, GPS and Russia’s GLONASS, Wang Hansheng, vice president of Olink Star, a Beijing-based company that makes navigation satellite system products, told the Global Times.

By Ding Xuezhen Source:Global Times

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World’s first Quantum communication satellite to be launched in China against hackers


China is poised to become the first country to send encoded information from space that cannot be hacked. Scientists are making final adjustments to China’s first quantum communication satellite. The project chief describes it as a revolution in communications.

China will launch its first experimental quantum communication satellite in July, according to the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

 

China is poised to become the first country to send encoded information from space that cannot be hacked. Scientists are making final adjustments to China’s first quantum communication satellite. The project chief describes it as a revolution in communications.

A quantum photon cannot be separated or duplicated, which means if someone tried to decode information, the encryption would change, and the receiver would know that his letter was opened by someone.

Scientists hope the new technology will protect China from future cyber issues. In 2015, cases involving information technology in China rose by more than 120 percent, according to survey by a non-profit cybersecurity institution. China plans to use its quantum satellite system to cover the planet by 2030.

On the ground, China is also building its own quantum information sharing network for use in national defense and security. At some point, China plans to connect the ground network to the quantum satellite system.

It has taken five years for Chinese scientists to develop and manufacture the first quantum satellite. In June, it will be transported to the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in southwest China for final preparation and launch in July., 2016

China wins space race to launch world’s first ‘quantum communication’ satellite in fight against hackers

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http://t.cn/RGWRDib

China announces its second space laboratory, the ‘TIANGONG 2,’ will blast off into orbit later this autumn, but that’s not it! Shortly afterwards, a manned spacecraft will also be sent to dock with the lab with two astronauts set to stay longer in space than any of their predecessors.

China is pressing ahead its ultimate space goal. Tiangong-2, or “Heavenly Palace-2,” will be the country’s second space lab to be deployed above earth.

“Tiangong-2 will launch in the third quarter of this year. It will carry out various space scientific and application experiments,” said Wu Ping, Deputy Director of China Manned Space Program Office.

If the launch is successful, the Shenzhou-11 spacecraft will follow shortly carrying 2 astronauts, who’ll spend 30 days in orbit- a new record for China.

China aims to build own space station by 2020

But that’s only part of the bigger picture. China’s greater goal is to build its very own space station by 20-20 and it looks to be on course, to do just this.

“It takes numerous launches and docks to finish the ultimate goal. We will organize a series of missions from the middle of this year to the first half of next year,” said Wu.

Tiangong-2 is a prototype for a space station. Its predecessor Tiangong-1 has been in orbit for nearly five years. In 2012 and 2013, manned spacecraft successfully docked with the space lab.

“The difference is Tiangong-2 is a space station in a real sense. Technical adjustments have been made based on experience and data from Tiangong One- which will continue scientific missions,” said Wu.

Preparations are also underway for China’s FIRST cargo spaceship, which is set to launch next year and dock with Tiangong 2.

Wu also said:”It will test key technologies in the construction and operation of a space station, such as cargo transportation, and propellant supply in orbit.”

The international space station is scheduled to retire by 2020, when China is on course to become the only country with a permanent presence in space.

World’s most sensitive ‘eye’
– Chinese experts develop best rendezvous and docking CCD Sensor

 

BEIJING, June 22 2015 (Xinhua) — Chinese space experts have developed the world’s most sensitive “eye” that enables the autonomous rendezvous and docking of two spacecraft — flying eight times faster than bullets — more efficiently and safely.

The “eye” is China’s newly developed third-generation rendezvous and docking CCD optical imaging sensor. It will be used on China’s second orbiting space lab, Tiangong-2, the Chang’e-5 lunar probe and the permanent manned space station, according to China Academy of Space Technology (CAST).

China plans to launch Tiangong-2 in 2016, and send Chang’e-5 to collect samples from the moon and return to earth around 2017. It also aims to put a permanent manned space station into service around 2022.

“Good ‘eyesight’ is crucial for one spacecraft chasing another for hundreds of thousands of kilometers to achieve a perfect rendezvous and docking — it’s like threading the needle,” says Gong Dezhu, a CAST designer who worked on the CCD optical imaging sensor.

“The last 150 meters between the two spacecraft is the most critical moment. A slight deviation during docking might lead to a disaster like the one caused by Mann, the main antagonist in the movie Interstellar,” Gong says.

Compared with the CCD optical imaging sensor used in the docking of Tiangong-1 and the Shenzhou spacecraft, the new “eye” can see clearer under direct sunlight, which will greatly improve safety. The window period of the docking process will be twice the length, Gong says.

“And the reaction time between the ‘eye’ capturing the first sight of its target and recognizing it has been shortened from 10 seconds to less than one second,” Gong says.

The sensor’s weight and power consumption is only half that of comparable products internationally, says Gong.
Such “eyes” can also be used on mechanical arms, and for refueling and repairing of spacecraft, as well as aerial refueling and docking of underwater vehicles, experts say. – Xinhua

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China’s Long March-6 new carrier rocket succeeds in carrying 20 satellites to space


A new model of China’s carrier rocket Long March-6 carrying 20 micro-satellites blasts off from the launch pad at 7:01 a.m. from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in north China’s Shanxi Province, Sept. 20, 2015. The new carrier rocket will be mainly used for the launch of micro-satellites and the 20 micro-satellites will be used for space tests. (Xinhua/Yan Yan) 

China successfully launched a new model of carrier rocket, Long March-6, at 7:01 a.m. Sunday from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in north China’s Shanxi Province.

The rocket carried 20 micro-satellites into the space for space tests.

The new rocket, fueled by liquid propellant made of liquid oxygen and kerosene, is China’s first carrier rocket that uses fuel free of toxicity and pollution, said Gao Xinhui, an official at China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation.

“Using such propellant can cut costs by a great margin,” he said.

Zhang Weidong, designer-in-chief at the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology with the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, said the new rocket also “reformed the way carrier rockets are tested and launched in China.”

“Loading, testing and positioning were finished when the Long March-6 rocket was at a horizontal position, before it was lifted to an upright position for launching,” he said.

“We believe it will greatly boost the competitiveness of Chinese carrier rockets in the international market. The new model will also significantly improve our abilitiy to access space,” said Zhang.

The launch on Sunday has tested the feasibility and accuracy of the rocket’s design as well as other new technologies.
The new carrier rocket will be mainly used for the launch of micro-satellites.

The rocket is the 210th mission by the Long March rocket family. In 1970, a Long March-1 rocket sent China’s first satellite, Dong Fang Hong 1, or “the East is Red”, into Earth orbit. – Xinhua

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China launches new carrier rocket with 20 satellites

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