CHINA’S SPACE PROGRAMME
Gp Capt Srikant Mishra
“Our overall goal is that, by around 2030, China will be among the major space powers of the world,”
Wu Yanhua, deputy chief of the National Space Administration, said in January 2017.
China was late to the space race. It didn’t send its first satellite into space until 1970, just after the United States put the first man on the moon. But in the decades since, China has pumped billions of dollars and other resources into of the space segment of research and training. Since 2003, China has staged a spacewalk, landed a rover on the moon and launched a space lab that it hopes paves the way for a 20-ton space station. It has also sent crews into space in the same span of time, making it the third country in the world after Russia and the United States with such success. China is quickly becoming one of the most ambitious and pioneering nations in exploring space.
Obtaining information on China’s space programme is difficult as the Chinese government is notoriously secretive about both its civil and military space activities. However, at times it provides small glimpses of its work. The Shenzhou 6 launch at the Jiuquan launch facility in 2005 was broadcast live. Foreign reporters were banned from attending the launch, and such access remains restricted. The same goes for private citizens, who are not likely to reach Jiuquan and other launch sites, which are located in remote areas.
China’s space programme began in 1956 as an offshoot of its missile technology efforts along with the nuclear programme. The father of the space programme was Qian Xuesen who was based in the USA. he was a co-founder of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Qian returned to China sometime after the takeover and in 1956 and was appointed the first director of the Ministry of National Defense’s Fifth Research Academy. The academy was tasked with overseeing ballistic missile development and beginning a space program,
The history of Chinese Space Programme can be divided into four stages. They are
(a)Stage 1 (1955 – 1966) This was the initial stage after Qian returned to China from USA.
(b)Stage 2 (1966 -1976) The goal to launch Chinas first satellite before 1970 was set during the stage.
(c)Stage 3 (1976 – 1986) An 8 year plan for space technology was set.
(d)Stage 4 (1986 till date) The 863 and 921 programs.
China’s space program spans full range of capability from satellite design to launch services. china builds satellites and has a robust commercial satellite launch industry capable of launching payloads into low earth and geosynchronous orbits. Its space program is also notable for its overwhelming dual use character which allows easy transfer of personnel and technology between the civilian and military sectors.
Figure 1- Organinsation Chart
China National Space Administration (CNSA) CNSA is the national space agency of China. It is responsible for the national space program and for planning and development of space activities. CNSA and China Aerospace Corporation (CASC) assumed the authority over space development efforts previously held by the Ministry of Aerospace Industry. It is a subordinate agency of the State Administration for Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence, which itself is a subordinate agency of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT). CNSA was created in 1993 when the Ministry of Aerospace Industry was split into CNSA and the China Aerospace Corporation (CASC). The former was to be responsible for policy, while the latter was to be responsible for execution. CNSA was established as a government institution to develop and fulfill China’s due international obligations, with the approval by the Eighth National Congress. The Ninth National Congress assigned CNSA as an internal structure of the Commission of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (COSTIND). CNSA assumes the responsibilities of signing governmental agreements in the space area on behalf of organizations, inter-governmental scientific and technical exchanges and also is responsible for enforcement of national space policies and managing the national space science, technology and industry.
China’s space capability is dicussed under the following heads
(a)Launch Sites / Centres
(e)Space Laboratory Program
Launch Sites / Centres
China operates 4 satellite launch centers namely, Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center (JSLC), Xichang Satellite Launch Center (XSLC), Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center (TSLC) and Wenchang Satellite Launch Center (WSLC). The Geographical Location of the launch centres are shown in Pic 1.
Figure 1 – Launch Sites Centers
Besides this, it has Monitoring and control centers at Beijing Aerospace Command and Control Center (BACCC), Xian Satellite Monitor and Control Center (XSCC). There are numerous Domestic tracking stations and couple of overseas tracking stations including one at Karachi.
Space Launch Vehicles
The expendable rocket that China relies upon for its space program is the Long March (LM) / Chang Zheng (CZ) family. This rocket developed by the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology launched its first satellite in 1970. In 1985, the Chinese government announced that the Long March launch vehicle family would offer commercial satellite launch services for users both at home and abroad. Principal responsibility for the design, development and production of Long March family launch vehicles falls under the auspices of China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT) and the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology (SAST), both of which belong to the China Aerospace Corporation. The Long March rockets are organized into several series. They are :-
(a)Long March / ChangZheng 2C This is a series of launch vehicles which had its First flight on 9 September 1982 and the latest flight on 25 January 2018. It has recorded a total 45 launches with 44 successful ones. The vehicle has the ability of carrying a payload of 3850 Kgs to a Low Earth Orbit, 1900 Kg to a Sun Synchronous Orbit and 1250 Kgs to a Geo Stationary Orbit.
Several variants of this launch vehicle have been built, all using an optional third solid motor stage.
(i)LM / CZ 2C/SD is a commercial satellite launcher with a multi-satellite smart dispenser allowing delivery of two satellites simultaneously.
(ii)LM / CZ 2C/SM is a version for delivery of small satellites to high orbits
(iii)LM / CZ 2C/SMA is an improved version of the 2C/SM.
(b)Long March / ChangZheng 2D The Long March 2D made its maiden flight on 9 August 1992 the latest flight on 02 February 2018. It is a 2-stage carrier rocket mainly used for launching Low Earth Orbit and Sun Synchronous Orbit satellites. It has recorded a total 38 launches with one failure. The vehicle has the ability of carrying a payload of 3,500 Kgs to a Low Earth Orbit and 1,300 Kg to a Sun Synchronous Orbit.
(c)Long March / Chang Zheng 3A Long March / Chang Zheng 3A is a 3-stage rocket, and is usually used to place communication satellites and Beidou navigation satellites into geosynchronous transfer orbits. It made its maiden flight on 8 February 1994 and the latest flight was on 29 March 2016. It has recorded a total 25 successful launches. The vehicle has the ability of carrying a payload of 8,500 Kgs to a Low Earth Orbit and 2,600 Kg to a Geo Synchronous Transfer Orbit and 1600 Kgs to a Heliocentric Orbit.
(d)Long March / Chang Zheng 4B It is a Chinese orbital carrier rocket. Launched from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center, it is a 3-stage rocket, used mostly to place satellites into low Earth and sun synchronous orbits. It was first launched on 10 May 1999, with the FY-1C weather satellite, which was later used in the 2007 Chinese anti-satellite missile test.The Chang Zheng 4B experienced its first launch failure on 9 December 2013, with the loss of the CBERS-3satellite. The vehicle has the ability of carrying a payload of 4,200 kilograms to Low Earth Orbit payload of 2,800 kilograms to Sun Synchronous Orbit and payload of1,500 kilograms to Geo Stationery Orbit.
(e)Long March / Chang Zheng 4C Long March 4C vehicles have been used to launch the Yaogan-1, Yaogan-3 SAR satellites and the Fengyun-3A polar orbiting meteorological satellite. On December 15, 2009 a Long March 4C was used to launch Yaogan 8. On September 1, 2016, the Long March-4C failed to insert its payload, the Gaofen-10 satellite, into its designated orbit. The vehicle has the ability of carrying a Payloads to the specified orbits same as LM / CZ 4B.
(f)Long March / Chang Zheng 5 Long March 5 launch vehicle uses of liquid hydrogen-oxygen engine. The rocket has a maximum carrying capacity of 25 tons of payload to Low Earth Orbit and 14 tons of payload to geosynchronous orbit. “Long March 5” (CZ-5) is a new generation of large launch vehicle mainly used for launch space station, lunar exploration three, the next generation of geostationary satellites and other tasks. On November 3, 2016, the Long March V rocket made its first successful flight from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Center.
(g)Long March / Chang Zheng 6 The first Long March-6 (Chang Zheng-6) rocket was successfully launched from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center on 19 Sep 2015 with a multi-payload cargo of 20 small satellites. It is a liquid-propellant, small-load space launch vehicle developed by Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology (SAST). It is capable of placing at least 1,000 kilograms of payload into a sun-synchronous orbit. The first stage of the Long March 6 was derived from the booster rockets being developed for the Long March 5 rocket. It is powered by a YF-100 engine, which generates 1,340 kilo-newtons of thrust from burning kerosene and LOX as rocket fuel and oxidiser.
(h)Long March / Chang Zheng 7 It made its inaugural flight on June 25, 2016. Designed as a replacement of the Long March 2F, Long March 7 and its variants are expected to be the workhorse of the fleet, eventually accounting for around 70% of all Chinese launches. The vehicle has a Capacity to launch a Payload of 13,500 kg to low Earth Orbit and 5,500 kg to Geo-stationary transfer Orbit. Long March 7 will also play a critical role in the Chinese Space Station. It was used to launch the Tianzhou robotic cargo spacecraft, and will eventually replace the Long March 2F as China’s crew-rated launch vehicle.
(j)Long March / Chang Zheng 11 The “Long March Eleventh” (CZ-11) is a new generation of solid carrier rockets that are mainly used for fast maneuvering launch of emergency satellites. On September 25, 2015, the Long March 11 rocket successfully delivered four tiny satellites into space from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. The launch of the Long March 11 launch vehicle is based on the breakthrough of the 120-ton thrust solid rocket engine technology. The 700-kilometer Sun-geostationary orbit carrying capacity of 350 kg of land-based mobile launch small solid propellant rocket can achieve the goal of 1 day launch.
China has around 282 satellites in space for various purposes like Communication, Remote Sensing, Meteorology, Navigation, Science, Technology, Education and Traffic Monitoring. In this study the focus is on Navigation and Remote sensing satellites
Navigation Satellites China is has developed its own navigation satellite constellation known as CNSS (Compass Navigation Satellite System), or BeiDou-2 in its Chinese name. Although the program was initiated by China’s military forces, China established an agency, namely CSNPC (China Satellite Navigation Project Center) to take charge of the research, building, and management of CNSS. The system will be a constellation of 35 satellites, which include 5 geostationary orbit (GEO) satellites and 30 medium Earth orbit (MEO) satellites, that will offer complete coverage of the globe. Presently there are 30 BeiDou satellites orbiting in the space.
The three-step development strategy of the system is as follows
(a)By the end of 2000, the Beidou-1 system was completed and services were provided to China only.
(b)By the end of 2012, the Beidou-2 system was completed, services were provided to the Asia-Pacific region;
(c)China plans to build the global system of BeiDou around the year 2020 to provide services to the world.
Path ; Position of 18 BeiDou Navigation System satellites that are over 20° above the horizon of Indore at 1555h on 07 Feb 18 provides a glimpse of coverage in the
Indo – Pacific region
Remote sensing Satellites China has developed a large constellation of imaging and remote sensing satellites under a variety of mission families. These satellites can support military objectives by providing situational awareness of foreign military force deployments, critical infrastructure, and targets of political significance.
Gaojing-1 ( Superview-1) GaoJing-1, also known as SuperView-1 is a constellation of Chinese civilian remote sensing satellites operated by Beijing Space View Tech Co Ltd. The constellation initially consisted of two satellites. It operates at an altitude of 500 km and provides imagery with 0.5 m panchromatic resolution and 2 m multispectral resolution. The swath width is 12 km and the descending node time is 10:30 am. It possesses high agility and runs with multiple collection modes including long strip, multiple strips collect, multiple point targets collect and stereo imaging. The maximum single scene can be 60 km × 70 km. These satellites will be spaced by 180° on the same orbit.
(a)The first pair was launched on 28 December 2016 on a CZ-2D (2) rocket. A launch mishap left these satellites in a lower than planned orbit. The satellites used their own propulsion to raise their orbit to the planned height, although at the expense of lifetime.
(b)A second group of two satellite of this type was launched on 09 Jan 2018, bringing the constellation to four satellites phased 90° from each other on the same orbit. The SuperView constellation, called “16+4+4+X”, is projected to comprise of 16 optical satellites with 0.5m resolution, four higher resolution satellites, four synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellites and a fleet of satellites with video and hyper spectral cameras, “The entire constellation will be completed by the end of 2022.
Yaogan Series China has in place a constellation of dedicated Yaogan Satellites that performs the identification, location and tracking function for the ASBM mission. Together with the OTH radar they provide the vital C4ISR inputs necessary for a successful missile strike on a moving Aircraft Carrier Group.
(a)With the launch of the Yaogan 28, Yaogan 29 in November 2015 and Yaogan 30 satellite in May 2016, China has demonstrated its ability to routinely identify, locate and track an Aircraft Carrier Group (ACG) on the high seas. This space capability is an important component of an Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile (ASBM) System that China has set up. The current operational satellite constellation consists of ELINT satellites, satellites carrying Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) sensors as well as satellites carrying optical imaging sensors. Based on the orbit characteristics, their local time of equatorial crossing and other related parameters, these satellites can be grouped into different categories that perform the various functions for identifying, locating and tracking the ACG.
(b)Yaogan 9 (Yaogan 9A, 9B, 9C), Yaogan 16 (16A, 16B, 16C), Yaogan 17 (17A, 17B, 17C), Yaogan 20 (20A, 20B, 20C) and Yaogan25 (25A, 25B, 25C) are the five triplet cluster equipped with ELINT sensors that provide broad area surveillance over the Oceans. With a coverage radius of about 3500 Km, they provide the first coarse fix for identifying and locating an ACG in the Pacific Ocean. Yaogan 20 and Yaogan 25 may be replacements for the Yaogan 9 and the Yaogan 16 that may be nearing the end of their lives.
(c)Yaogan 23, Yaogan 29, Yaogan 10, and Yaogan 18 are the satellites carrying a SAR sensor. With Local times of crossing of 0200, 0430, 0600, and 1000 hours they provide all weather as well as day and night imaging capabilities over the regions of interest.
(d)Yaogan 30, Yaogan 26, Yaogan 4, Yaogan 24, Yaogan 28, Yaogan 7 and Yaogan 21 constitute the high resolution optical satellites in the current constellation. The sensors they carry may have resolutions of between 1 to 3 m. Their local times of crossing of 0900, 1030, 1100, 1330, 1400, 1500 and 1730 hours respectively ensure favourable illumination conditions for their imaging missions.
(e)Yaogan 27, Yaogan 19, Yaogan 22 and Yaogan 15 satellites with local times of crossing of 0930, 1030, 1330 and 1430 hours respectively are optical imaging satellites with medium resolution (3 to 10 m) capabilities. They act as a broad area coverage complement for the SAR as well as the high resolution optical imaging satellites. Yaogan 27 is a replacement for the Yaogan 8 that may be nearing the end of its life.
Using typical sensor geometries and the two line orbital elements available from public sources the ability of the current constellation to identify, locate and track the ACG was simulated by S. Chandrashekar and Soma Peruma. Assuming that any three of the ELINT clusters are operational at any given point in time the ELINT satellites typically make 18 contacts in a day with the moving target. The maximum period for which the target remains outside the reach of the ELINT satellites is about 90 minutes in a day. The SAR and the optical imaging satellites together typically provide 24 satellite passes over the target. About 16 targeting opportunities, during which the uncertainty in the target’s location is less than 10 km, are available in a day. The analysis and the simulation results suggest that China has in place an operational ASBM system that can identify, locate, track and destroy an Aircraft Carrier in the Pacific Ocean. This seems to be an important component of a larger Chinese Access and Area Denial Strategy focused around a conflict over Taiwan.
TianHui – 1 (TH-1) TianHui meaning “Sky drawing” is a Chinese stereo-topographic mapping satellite operated by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The satellites are built by the Hangtian Dongfanghong Weixing Corporation and the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation and the Chinese Academy of Space Technology (CAST). The satellites operate on a 500 km circular sun synchronous orbit. They are equipped with a three-dimensional survey camera and a CCD camera with a ground resolution of 5 meters, spectral region of 0.51 µm to 0.69 µm and with a camera angle of 25 degrees. Also on board is a multi-spectral camera with a ground resolution of 10 meters operating in four spectral bands of 0.43 µm to 0.52 µm, 0.52 µm to 0.61 µm, 0.61 µm to 0.69 µm, and 0.76 µm to 0.90 µm. The swath width of the cameras is 60 kilometers wide. The Tianhui-1 satellites are part of the Ziyuan program that cover different civil and military earth observation as well as remote sensing programs.
The Jilin-1 The Jilin-1 constellation of satellite is developed in China’s Jilin Province and is the country’s first self-developed remote sensing satellite for commercial use. These remote sensing satellites are designed to capture videos with a ground resolution better than 1.0 meters and with a swath of 11 km × 4.5 km. The operational lifespan of the satellites is 3 years. Jilin, one of the country’s oldest industrial bases, is developing its satellite industry in a new economic drive. The province plans to launch 60 satellites by 2020 and 138 by 2030.
The first phase of the constellation saw the launch of the first three Jilin-1 satellites (that are also known as Lingqiao-1). Jilin 1-01 and Jilin 1-02 were launched on 07 Oct 2015, Jilin 1-03 was launched on 09 Jan 2017. Between 2018 and 2019 there are plans to have 16 satellites in orbit, completing a remote sensing network that will cover the entire globe and will be capable of a three to four hours update in the data provided. From 2020, the plans point to a 60 satellites orbital constellation capable of a 30 minutes update in the data provided. From 2030, the Jilin constellation will have 138 satellites in orbit, forming an all-day, all-weather, full spectrum acquisition segment data and a capability of observing any global arbitrary point with a 10 minutes revisit capability, providing the world’s highest spatial resolution and time resolution space information products.
China’s anti-satellite (ASAT) program has been under development since 1964. Since its inception, the ASAT program has made progress on the development of three ASAT capable Systems: direct fire, directed-energy weapon, and microsatellites. A brief survey of tests by Beijing confirms that China is rapidly improving its counter space program and making advances in its anti-satellite systems. China’s first ASAT test was conducted in May 2005 and its capabilities have come a long way since. Most notably, on 11 Jan 2007 a test was conducted to destroy a redundant Feng Yun 1-C weather satellite owned by China, leaving over 3,000 dangerous pieces of debris in space (Pic – 2) . The test was conducted in low Earth orbit (LEO), approximately 800 kilometers above Earth.
Figure 3 – ASAT Program
A 2013 test by Beijing involved its new missile, the DN-2 or Dong Neng-2, and the test was conducted in “nearly geosynchronous orbit,” where most of the ISR and navigation satellites are located. The direct ascent test, launched from Xichang, reached an altitude of 18,600 miles. On October 30, 2015, China tested the DN-3 exoatmospheric vehicle, reported to be able to destroy U.S. satellites. Chinese press reports said the test was a missile defense interceptor flight test. However, The Washington Free Beacon quotes unnamed defense officials as saying that the DN-3 is “primarily a direct-ascent missile designed to ram into satellites and destroy them, even if intelligence assessments hold that the weapon has some missile defense capabilities.” Since 2005, China has conducted seven anti-satellite direct-ascent missile tests. The details are tabulated in Table 1.
19050375285Table 1- Summary of Direct-Ascent Anti-Satellite Tests
Along with direct-ascent ASAT weapons, China is also believed to be developing other space weapons. In June 2016, China launched the Aolong-1 spacecraft on a Long March 7 rocket. China claims that the Aolong-1 is tasked with cleaning up space junk and collecting man-made debris in space. However, other reports suggest that the spacecraft, equipped with a robotic arm, is a dual-use ASAT weapon. The Aolong-1 is believed to be the first in a series of spacecraft that will be tasked with collecting man-made space debris. the South China Morning Post points out that it is unrealistic to remove all space debris with robots; rather, for the People’s Liberation Army the robot is a potential ASAT weapon.
Beijing’s recent space activities indicate that it is developing co-orbital anti-satellite systems to be capable of targeting space assets. Co-orbital anti-satellite systems consist of a satellite “armed with a weapon such as an explosive charge, fragmentation device, kinetic energy weapon, laser, radio frequency weapon, jammer, or robotic arm.” Besides the “hard-kill” methods, Beijing is also testing soft-kill methods to incapacitate enemy satellites. For instance, China has been acquiring a number of foreign and indigenous ground-based satellite jammers since the mid-2000s. These jammers are designed to disrupt an adversary’s communications with a satellite by overpowering the signals being sent to or from it. The PLA can use these jammers to deny an adversary the access to the GPS and other satellite signals. Directed energy lasers are also a soft-kill method that could be used in an anti-satellite mission. China has been committing resources to the research and development for directed energy weapons since the 1990s.
Tiangong – Space Laboratory Program
The first Tiangong lab module was launched on 29 September 2011, and two astronaut crews lived aboard it. The Tiangong 1 laboratory has now completed its mission of demonstrating the basic technologies required for a space station and is expected to re-enter any time now.
Tiangong-2 was launched on 15 September 2016. Tiangong-2 is neither designed nor planned to be a permanent orbital station; rather, it is intended as a testbed for key technologies that will be used in Chinese large modular space station, which is planned for launch around 2019–2022.
China’s original plan called for three Tiangong laboratories, with the next ones each successively more advanced than its predecessor. Tiangong 3 would be the final step before China launched the first module of the Chinese Space Station, a large modular structure that should be completed around 2020. China aims to build by 2022 a permanent space station, which is expected to orbit for at least 10 years
Figure 4 – The Future China’s Space Station
Major Achievements of China Space Program Vs USA
24 Apr 1970 : Dongfanghong 1, first satellite launched aboard Chang Zheng 1 Rocket from Jiuquan LA-2 Launch site.
31 Jan 1958: Explorer 1, designed and built by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at Caltech, is sent aloft from Cape Canaveral, aboard a Jupiter C rocket. It is the first satellite launched 29 Jul 1958: Creation of NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration)
15 Oct 2003 – Astronaut Yang Liwei becomes the first Chinese in space 5 May 1961 – Astronaut Alan Shepard becomes the first American in space.
14 Dec 2013 : China’s Chang’e 3 spacecraft landed on the moon 02 Jun 1966: Surveyor 1 becomes the first American spacecraft to land on the moon.
20 Jul 1969: Neil Armstrong and Aldrin become the first men on the moon
China’s Mars program started in 2009 in a partnership with Russia. However, the Russian spacecraft Fobos-Grunt carrying a Chinese orbiter Yinghuo-1 crashed on 9 November 2011. China is planned to place a Mars orbiter, lander and rover on Mars & the mission is planned to be launched in July or August 2020. 13 Nov 1971: The Mariner 9 probe orbited Mars. It is the first craft to orbit another planet.
29 Sep 2011 : Tiangong-1 meaning Celestial Palace 1 : first prototype space station was Launched aboard a Long March 2F/G rocket 14 May 1973: The U.S. launched its first space station, Skylab.
11 Jan 2007: Conducted an anti-satellite missile test.
2008 : Chinese astronauts conduct the country’s first spacewalk, known as the Shenzhou 7 mission.
2013 : China landed a rover on the moon named Jade Rabbit.
China completed the world’s largest radio telescope in 2016, which will scan for alien life and search for black holes
Sep 2016 : Launcheed second space lab, Tiangong-2.
Oct 2016: Launcheed Shenzhou 11, China’s sixth manned space mission.
Nov 2016: Launched the Long March 5, one of the world’s most powerful rockets.
20 Apr 2017 : Lunched its first cargo spacecraft, Tianzhou-1, an essential step for building its own space station by 2022. Voyagers 1 and 2 were launched in 1977
Nov 1980 : Voyager 1 reaches Saturn and begins transmitting images.
Jan 1986: Voyager 2 begins transmitting images from Uranus.
August 1989: Voyager 2 begins transmitting images from Neptune.
Dec 1998 : Unity, the first U.S. segment of the International Space Station, launches.
Sep 2003 : NASA’s Galileo mission ends a 14-year exploration of the solar system’s largest planet and its moons with the spacecraft crashing by design into Jupiter at 108,000 mph.
Mar 2009 : The NASA spacecraft Kepler is launched, with a goal of searching for planets outside our solar system, in a distant area of the Milky Way.
Apr 2017 : NASA’s Cassini spacecraft sends word that it successfully completed its first pass through the uncharted territory between Saturn and its rings.
Budget on Space Activities
China does not publish official figures on its overall space spending. This dearth of information, combined with the opacity in structures and organisation, makes obtaining reliable data on the expenditure and budget allocation for space-related activities difficult. It would, however, be too simplistic to attribute the lack of an official budget for space activities solely to a desire for secrecy motivated by the sensitive nature of this domain. In order to have an idea of the total annual spending on space activities in China, it is necessary to rely on estimates. A variety of estimates have been offered in various literatures, and different methodologies have been proposed. One of the most recognised approaches to estimating the Chinese space budget is that proposed by the Space Foundation in its Space Report, which suggests comparing China to its “peers”. On average, the major space faring nations—excluding the United States and Russia, where spending is significantly higher than in any other country—
devote approximately 0.042 % of their current-price Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to civil space activities. Using this method and China’s GDP which is 11.2 lakh crores USD (2016), the country’s 2016 space spending can be estimated at 4704 crores USD.
In 2018, CNSA aims to land a rover to the far side of the moon, a first for humankind. And in 2020, it plans to land a rover on Mars, a feat that has been attempted by Russia and other European nations, but only successfully accomplished by the United States. The overall goal is that, by around 2030, China will be among the major space powers of the world. Chinese space officials have said they would put astronauts on the moon by the mid-2030s. According to Chinese state media, China spends about $2 billion a year on its space programme.
China’s navigation and high-resolution imaging are two ways that satellites can be used to convey details about enemy targets. China’s BeiDou Navigation satellite, in orbit since 2000, will be used by the Chinese military to carry out navigation requirement of all its kinetic platforms and weapons. Although China professes that many of its satellites are not used for military but there are ample evidences to suggest that they are making headway into using space to secure it’s security interests. With the present satellites Chinese military will be able to get an update, from the space, on the places of interest in India every 4-6 hours.
Though Chinese space authorities have publicly announced the country’s ambitions to forge itself into a major space power by the early 2030s, President Xi Jinping’s government is also considering ways to direct spending that will push Chinese tech companies toward breakthroughs in downstream technologies like robotics, aerospace, artificial intelligence, big data analytics and other 21st-century technologies. The majority of China’s space ambitions remain focused on boosting Chinese prestige at home and abroad. But a push within Xi’s government to triple spending on space science as well as the emergence of a small but growing group of privately backed space start-ups suggest that both Chinese industry and government see long-term economic benefits in their investments in space technologies. Finally, its interesting to note that NASA personnel are prohibited from working with the Chinese, and the Chinese can’t visit any NASA building without explicit permission and a waiver.
About the Author
Gp Capt Srikant Mishra an alumnus of Sainik School Bhubaneswar was commissioned into Administration branch and Fighter Controller sub branch of IAF in Dec 1991. He is a Cat BEE controller and served in various radar units of IAF as a fighter controller. He also specialises in the IMINT stream. He has served as an observer in the first RPA Sqn of the IAF, Int officer at HQ Eastern Air Command and JD IMINT at Air HQ. He has also been the Chief Admin Officer of a premier base in SWAC. He has commanded the Imagery Intelligence School of IAF and has the distinction of training the officers of Kenyan Defence Forces at Kenya Defence Int School in Nairobi.