Status Report

China’s Space Activities, a White Paper

By SpaceRef Editor
November 22, 2000
Filed under , ,

Title: China’s Space Activities, a White Paper

Organization: The Information Office of the State Council

Date Published: November 22, 2000.

City: Beijing, China

Following is the full text of the white paper:

I. Aims and Principles

II. Present Situation

III. Future Development

IV. International Cooperation

I. Aims and Principles

The Chinese government has all along regarded the space
industry as an integral part of the state’s comprehensive development strategy, and upheld
that the exploration and utilization of outer space should be for peaceful purposes and
benefit the whole of mankind. As a developing country, China’s fundamental tasks are
developing its economy and continuously pushing forward its modernization drive.

The aims and principles of China’s space activities
are determined by their important status and function in protecting China’s national
interests and implementing the state’s development strategy. The aims of China’s space
activities are: to explore outer space, and learn more about the cosmos and the Earth; to
utilize outer space for peaceful purposes, promote mankind’s civilization and social
progress, and benefit the whole of mankind; and to meet the growing demands of economic
construction, national security, science and technology development and social progress,
protect China’s national interests and build up the comprehensive national strength.

China carries out its space activities in accordance
with the following principles.

– Adhering to the principle of long-term, stable and
sustainable development and making the development of space activities cater to and serve
the state’s comprehensive development strategy. The Chinese government attaches great
importance to the significant role of space activities in implementing the strategy of
revitalizing the country with science and education and that of sustainable development,
as well as in economic construction, national security, science and technology development
and social progress. The development of space activities is encouraged and supported by
the government as an integral part of the state’s comprehensive development strategy.

– Upholding the principle of independence,
self-reliance and self-renovation and actively promoting international exchanges and
cooperation. China shall rely on its own strength to tackle key problems and make
breakthroughs in space technology. Meanwhile, due attention shall be given to
international cooperation and exchanges in the field of space technology, and
self-renovation in space technology shall be combined organically with technology import
on the principles of mutual benefit and reciprocity.

– Selecting a limited number of targets and making
breakthroughs in key areas according to the national situation and strength. China carries
out its space activities for the purpose of satisfying the fundamental demands of its
modernization drive.A limited number of projects that are of vital significance to the
national economy and social development are selected so as to concentrate strength to
tackle major difficulties and achieve breakthroughs in key fields.

– Enhancing the social and economic returns of space
activities and paying attention to the motivation of technological progress.

China strives to explore a more economical and
efficient development road for its space activities so as to achieve the integration of
technological advance and economic rationality.

– Sticking to integrated planning, combination of long-term
development and short-term development, combination of spacecraft and ground equipment,
and coordinated development. The Chinese government develops space technology, application
and science through integrated planning and rational arrangement in the aim of promoting
the comprehensive and coordinated development of China’s space activities.

II. Present Situation

Since its birth in 1956, China’s space program has gone
through several important stages of development: arduous pioneering, overall development
in all related fields, reform and revitalization, and international cooperation. Now it
has reached a considerable scale and level. A comprehensive system of research, design,
production and testing has been formed. Space centers capable of launching satellites of
various types and manned spacecraft as well as a Telemetry Tracking (TT) and
Command network consisting of ground stations across the country and tracking and
telemetry ships are in place. A number of satellite application systems have been
established and have yielded remarkable social and economic benefits. A space science
research system of a fairly high level has been set up and many innovative achievements
have been made. And a contingent of qualified space scientists and technicians has come to
the fore.

China’s space industry was developed on the basis of
weak infrastructure industries and a relatively backward scientific and technological
level, under special national and historical conditions. In the process of carrying out
space activities independently, China has opened a road of development unique to its
national situation and scored a series of important achievements with relatively small
input and within a relatively short span of time. Now, China ranks among the most advanced
countries in the world in many important technological fields, such as satellite recovery,
multi-satellite launch with a single rocket, rockets with cryogenic fuel, strap-on
rockets, launch of geo-stationary satellites and TT Significant achievements have also
been gained in the development and application of remote sensing satellites and
telecommunications satellites, and in manned spacecraft testing and space micro-gravity

Space Technology

1. Man-made Satellites: China’s first man-made
satellite, the "Dongfanghong-I" was successfully developed and launched on April
24, 1970, making China the fifth country in the world with such capability. By October
2000, China had developed and launched 47 satellites of various types, with a flight
success rate of over 90%. Altogether, four satellite series have been initially developed
in China, namely, recoverable remote-sensing satellites, "Dongfanghong (DFH)"
telecommunications satellites, "Fengyun (FY)" meteorological satellites and
"Shijian (SJ)" scientific research and technological experiment satellites. The
"Ziyuan (ZY)" earth resource satellite series will come into being soon. China
is the 3rd country in the world to have mastered the technology of satellite recovery,
with the success rate reaching the advanced international level, and the 5th country
capable of developing and launching geo-stationary telecommunications satellites
independently. The major technological index of China’s meteorological and earth resource
satellites have reached the international level of the early 1990s. The six
telecommunications, earth resources and meteorological satellites developed and launched
by China in the past few years are in stable operation, and have generated remarkable
social and economic returns.

2. Launching Vehicles: China has independently
developed the "Long-March" rocket group, containing 12 types of launching
vehicles capable of launching satellites to near-earth, geo-stationary and
sun-synchronous orbits. The largest launching capacity of the "Long-March"
rockets has reached 9,200 kg for near-earth orbit, and 5,100 kg for geo-stationary
transfer orbit, able to basically meet the demands of customers of all kinds. Since 1985,
when the Chinese government announced putting the "Long-March" rockets into the
international commercial launching market, China has launched 27 foreign-made satellites
into space, thus acquiring a share of the international commercial launching market.

Up to now, the "Long-March" rockets have
accomplished 63 launches, and made 21 consecutive successful flights from October 1996 to
October 2000.

3. Launching Sites: China has set up three launching
sites – in Jiuquan, Xichang and Taiyuan – which have successfully accomplished various
kinds of test flights of launching vehicles and launches of a variety of satellites and
experimental spacecraft. China’s spacecraft launching sites are capable of making both
domestic satellite launches and international commercial launches, and carrying out
international space cooperation in other fields.

4. TT China has established an integrated TT network
comprising TT ground stations and ships, which has successfully accomplished TT missions
for near-earth orbit and geo-stationary orbit satellites, and experimental spacecraft.
This network has acquired the capability of sharing TT resources with international
network, and its technology has reached the international advanced level.

5. Manned Spaceflight: Initiating its manned
spaceflight program in 1992, China has developed a manned spacecraft and high-reliability
launching vehicle, carried out engineering studies in aerospace medicine and aerospace
life science, selected reserve astronauts and developed equipment for aerospace
remote-sensing and aerospace scientific experiments. China’s first unmanned experimental
spacecraft – "Shenzhou"- was successfully launched and recovered November 20-21,
1999, symbolizing a breakthrough in the basic technologies of manned spacecraft and a
significant step forward in the field of manned spaceflight.

Space Applications

China attaches importance to developing all kinds of
application satellites and satellite application technology, and has made great progress
in satellite remote-sensing, satellite telecom and satellite navigation. Remote-sensing
and telecommunications satellites account for about 71% of the total number of satellites
developed and launched by China. These satellites have been widely utilized in all aspects
of economy, science and technology, culture, and national defense, and yielded remarkable
social and economic returns. Related departments of the state have also made active use of
foreign application satellites for application technology studies, with satisfactory

1. Satellite Remote-Sensing: China began to use
domestic and foreign remote-sensing satellites in the early 1970s, and eventually carried
out studies, development and promotion of satellite remote-sensing application technology,
which has been widely applied in meteorology, mining, surveying, agriculture, forestry,
water conservancy, oceanography, seismology and urban planning. To date, China has
established the National Remote- Sensing Center, National Satellite Meteorology Center,
China Resources Satellite Application Center, Satellite Oceanic Application CenteR and D
China Remote-Sensing Satellite Ground Station, as well as satellite remote-sensing
application institutes under related ministries of the State Council, some provinces and
municipalities and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

These institutions have made use of both domestic
and foreign remote-sensing satellites to carry out application studies in weather
forecasting, territorial survey, agricultural output assessment, forest survey, natural
disaster monitoring, maritime forecasting, urban planning and mapping. The regular
operation of the meteorological satellite ground application system, in particular, has
greatly improved the accuracy of forecasting disastrous weatheR and D significantly reduced
the economic losses of the state and people from such weather.

2. Satellite Telecommunications: In the mid-1980s ,
China began to utilize domestic and foreign telecommunications satellites, and developed
related technology to meet the increasing demands of the development of
telecommunications, broadcasting and education. In the field of fixed telecom service,
China has built scores of large and medium-sized satellite telecom earth stations, with
more than 27,000 international satellite telephone channels connected to more than 180
countries and regions worldwide. The establishment of the domestic satellite public
communication network, with more than 70,000 satellite telephone channels, has initially
solved the problem of communication in remote areas. The VSAT (Very Small Aperture
Terminal) communication service has developed very rapidly in recent years. There are now
in the country 30 domestic VSAT communication service providers and 15,000 small station
users, including over 6,300 two-way users. More than 80 specialized communication networks
for dozens of departments like finance, meteorology transportation, oil , water resources,
civil aviation , power, public health and the media have been built , with over 10 ,000
VSAT. A satellite TV broadcasting system covering the whole world and a satellite TV
education system covering the whole country have been established. China started to use
satellites for TV broadcasting in 1985 , and has formed a satellite transmission network
with 33 telecommunications satellite transponders responsible for transmitting 47 TV
programs and educational TV programs of CCTV (China Central Television) and local TV
stations throughout the country, 32 programs of the Central Broadcasting Station at home
and abroad, and about 40 local broadcasting programs. Ever since the opening of satellite
education TV broadcasting programs over a dozen years ago , more than 30 million people
have got college or technical secondary school education and training through it. China
has also set up a satellite live broadcasting experimental platform to transmit CCTV and
local satellite TV programs by digital compression to the vast rural areas which wireless
TV broadcasting cannot cover. In this way, China’s TV broadcasting coverage has been
greatly increased.

China has about 189,000 satellite TV broadcasting
receiving stations. The China broad-band multi-media education satellite transmission
network has also been established on the satellite live broadcasting experimental platform
to provide comprehensive remote education and information technology services.

3. Satellite Navigation: In the early 1980s, China
began to utilize other countries’ navigation satellites and develop the application
technology of satellite navigation and positioning, which is now widely used in many
fields including land survey, ship navigation, aircraft navigation, earthquake monitoring,
geological calamity monitoring, forest fire prevention and control, and urban traffic
control. After joining the COSPAS-SARSAT in 1992, China established the Chinese Mission
Control Center, thus greatly improving the capability of the emergency alarm service for
ships, aircraft and vehicles.

Space Science

China started to explore the upper atmosphere using
rockets and balloons in the early 1960s. In the early 1970s, China began to utilize the
scientific exploration and technological testing satellites of the "SJ" group in
a series of space explorations and studies, and acquired a large amount of valuable data
about the space environment. Research on space weather forecasting and related
international cooperation have also been carried out in recent years. In the late 1980s,
recoverable remote-sensing satellites were employed for various kinds of aerospace
scientific experiments, and have yielded satisfactory achievements in crystal and protein
growth, cell cultivation and crop breeding. Innovative achievements have been scored in
the study of basic theory of space science. The establishment of advanced and open
state-level laboratories specializing in space physics, micro-gravity and space life
science, and the founding of the Space Payload Application Center provide the country with
the basic ability to support aerospace scientific experiments. The "SJ" group
has been used in recent years to detect charged particles in terrestrial space and their
effects. In addition, the first micro-gravity space experiment on double-layer fluid was
accomplished, in which remote operation of space experiments was realized.

With the establishment and improvement of China’s
socialist market economic mechanism, the state guides the development of space activities
through macro-control, makes overall plans for the development of space technology, space
application and space science, promotes the R and D system integration of important space
technologies and the application of space science and technology in the fields of economy
, science and technology, culture , and national defense. The state has also carried out
reforms in the space science and technology industry to achieve sustainable development of
the space industry. The state has strengthened legislation work and policy management,
enacted laws and regulations and promulgated industrial policies for the space industry to
ensure orderly and standardized development of space activities. Research institutions,
industrial enterprises, commercial enterprises and institutions of higher learning are
encouraged to make full use of their advantages and participate in space activities under
the guidance of the state’s space policies.

The state supports renovation in space technology
and the establishment of a space technological renovation system with Chinese
characteristics, with the aim to improving the self-renovation capability and
industrialization of space activities.

Space activities for public welfare and R work with commercial
prospects are also supported by the state , and the state’s supervision over space
activities is being continuously strengthened. The China National Space Administration
(CNSA) is China’s governmental organization responsible for the management of satellites
for civilian use and inter-governmental space cooperation with other countries.

III. Future Development

The 21st century will witness vigorous development of space
activities across the world. China is drafting a space development strategy and plans
oriented to the 21st century according to the actual demands and long-term target of
national development to spur the growth of the space industry.

Development Targets

The short-term development targets (for the next
decade) are:

– To build up an earth observation system for
long-term stable operation. The meteorological satellites, resource satellites, oceanic
satellites and disaster monitoring satellites can develop into an earth observation system
for long-term stable operation to conduct stereoscopic observation and dynamic monitoring
of the land, atmosphere, and oceanic environments of the country, the peripheral regions
and even the whole globe.

– To set up an independently operated satellite
broadcasting and telecommunications system. Positive support will be given to the
development of commercial broadcasting and telecommunications satellites such as
geo-stationary telecom satellites and TV live broadcasting satellites with long operating
life, high reliability and large capacity, so as to form China’s satellite telecom

– To establish an independent satellite navigation
and positioning system. This will be achieved by setting up a navigation and positioning
satellite group step by step and developing a relevant application system, which will
eventually bring into being China’s satellite navigation and positioning industry;

The long-term development targets (for the next 20
years or more) are as follows:

To achieve industrialization and marketization of
space technology and space applications. The exploration and utilization of space
resources shall meet a wide range of demands of economic construction, state security,
science and technology development and social progress, and contribute to the
strengthening of the comprehensive national strength;

– To establish a multi-function and multi-orbit
space infrastructure composed of various satellite systems and set up a satellite ground
application system that harmonizes spacecraft and ground equipment to form an integrated
ground-space network system in full, constant and long-term operation in accordance with
the overall planning of the state;

– To establish China’s own manned spaceflight system
and carry out manned spaceflight scientific research and technological experiments on a
certain scale; and

– To obtain a more important place in the world in
the field of space science with more achievements and carry out explorations and studies
of outer space.

– To upgrade the overall level and capacity of
China’s launch vehicles. This will be achieved by improving the performance and
reliability of the "Long-March" group, developing the next generation of launch
vehicles with non-toxic, non-polluting, high-performance and low-cost qualities, forming a
new group of launch vehicles and strengthening the capability of providing international
commercial launching services;

– To realize manned spaceflight and establish an
initially complete R and D testing system for manned space projects;

– To establish a coordinated and complete national
satellite remote-sensing application system by building various related ground application
systems through overall planning, setting up a remote-sensing data receiving, processing
and distributing system covering the whole country for data sharing, and forming a fairly
complete application system in major application fields of satellite remote-sensing; and

– To develop space science and explore outer space
by developing a scientific research and technological experiment satellite group of the
next generation, strengthening studies of space micro-gravity, space material science,
space life science, space environment and space astronomy, and carrying out pre-study for
outer space exploration centering on the exploration of the moon.

Development Concepts

China develops its space activities with the
following approaches:

– Accelerating the industrialization of space
technology and its application. Enterprises engaged in space science and technology are
guided and encouraged to renovate institutions and technology, and establish an
operational mechanism geared toward both the domestic and international markets, so as to
speed up the industrialization of space technology and its applications step by step, with
the stress on telecom satellites and satellite telecom and launching vehicles.

– Deploying space activities rationally. Space
science, technology and application shall be developed in a well- coordinated manner
through overall planning. The work in these three fields will be given differentiated
importance from "preferential arrangement," "active support" and
"proper development" to "follow-up studies," so as to ensure the
comprehensive and coordinated development of China’s space industry.

– Strengthening pre-study and technological
infrastructure construction. Efforts will be concentrated on tackling key technological
problems to grasp core technology and attain independent intellectual property rights. At
the same time, technological infrastructure construction will be strengthened in the three
aspects of space activities, and international cooperation will be broadened to sustain
the development momentum of China’s space industry.

– Speeding up the development of talented people in
the space industry and forming advantages in this regard. Special policies will be adopted
to promote space education and train qualified personnel to foster a contingent of young
and highly qualified space scientists and engineers. Efforts will be made to publicize
space knowledge, and motivate all sectors of society to support the development of the
space industry.

– Improving scientific management for better quality and benefits.
Since space activities involve huge investments, high risks, sophisticated technology and
complicated systems, systems engineering and other modern management tools shall be
applied to promote scientific management, increase system quality, lower system risks and
enhance comprehensive benefits.

IV. International Cooperation

China persistently supports activities involving the peaceful
use of outer space, and maintains that international space cooperation should be promoted
and strengthened on the basis of equality and mutual benefit, mutual complementarity and
common development.

Guiding Principles

The Chinese government holds that international
space cooperation should follow the fundamental principles listed in the
"Deceleration on International Cooperation on Exploring and Utilizing Outer Space for
the Benefits and Interests of All Countries, Especially in Consideration of Developing
Countries’ Demands," which was approved by the 51st General Assembly of the United
Nations in 1996. China adheres to the following principles while carrying out
international space cooperation:

– The aim of international space cooperation is to
peacefully develop and use space resources for the benefit of all mankind.

– International space cooperation should be carried
out on the basis of equality and mutual benefit, mutual complementarity and common
development, and the generally accepted principles of international law.

– The priority aim of international space
cooperation is to simultaneously increase the capability of space development of all
countries, particularly the developing countries, and enable all countries to enjoy the
benefits of space technology.

– Necessary measures should be adopted to protect
the space environment and space resources in the course of international space

– The function of the United Nations Office of Outer
Space Affairs (OOSA) should be consolidated and the outer space application programs of
the United Nations should be backed up.

Fundamental Policies

The Chinese government adopts the following policies
in developing international space cooperation:

– Persisting in the independence and self-reliance
policy, carrying out active and pragmatic international space cooperation to meet the
needs of the national modernization drive and the demands of the domestic and
international markets for space science and technology.

– Supporting multilateral international cooperation
on the peaceful use of outer space within the framework of the United Nations.

– Attaching importance to the Asian-Pacific regional
space cooperation and supporting space cooperation in other regions of the world.

– Attaching importance to space cooperation with
both developed and developing countries.

– Enhancing and supporting research institutions,
industrial enterprises and universities and colleges to develop international space
exchanges and cooperation in different forms and at different levels under the guidance of
relevant state policies, laws and regulations.

Important Events

China’s participation in international space
cooperation started in the mid-1970s. During the last two decades or more, China has
joined bilateral, regional, multilateral and international space cooperation in different
forms, such as commercial launching service, which have yielded extensive achievements.

1. Bilateral Cooperation: Since 1985, China has
successively signed inter-governmental or inter-agency cooperative agreements, protocols
or memorandums, and established long-term cooperative relations with a dozen countries,
including the United States, Italy, Germany, Britain, France, Japan, Sweden , Argentina,
Brazil, Russia, Ukraine and Chile. Bilateral space cooperation is implemented in various
forms, from making reciprocal space programs and exchanges of scholars and specialists,
and sponsoring symposiums, to jointly developing satellite or satellite parts, and
providing satellite piggyback service and commercial launching service.

In 1993, a Sino-German joint venture – EurasSpace
GmbH – was established, and a contract on the development and manufacture of Sinosat-1 was
signed with DASA and Aerospeciale in 1995. Sinosat-1, which was successfully launched in
1998, was the first cooperative project on satellite development between the Chinese and
European aerospace industries.

The collaboration between China and Brazil on the
project of an earth resources satellite is making good progress, and the first such
satellite was successfully launched by China on October 14, 1999. In addition to
cooperation on complete satellites, China and Brazil are cooperating in the areas of
satellite technology, satellite application and satellite components. The cooperation
between China and Brazil in the space sector has set a good example for the developing
countries in "South-South Cooperation" in the high-tech field.

2. Regional Cooperation: China attaches great
importance to space cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region. In 1992, China, Thailand,
Pakistan and some other countries jointly sponsored the "Asian-Pacific Multilateral
Space Technology Cooperation Symposium. " Thanks to the impetus of such regional
cooperation, the governments of China, Iran, the Republic of Korea, Mongolia, Pakistan and
Thailand signed the "Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in Small
Multi-Mission Satellite and Related Activities" in Thailand in April 1998. Besides
the signatory countries, other countries in the Asia-Pacific region may also join the
cooperative project, which has helped to enhance the progress of space technology and
space application in the Asia- Pacific region.

3. Multilateral Cooperation: In June 1980, China
dispatched an observer delegation to the 23rd Meeting of UN COPUOS for the first time, and
on November 3, 1980, China became a member country of the committee. Since then, China has
participated in all the meetings of UN COPUOS and the annual meetings held by its Science,
Technology and Law Sub-committee. In 1983 and 1988, China acceded to the "Treaty on
Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space,
including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies," "Agreement on the Rescue of
Astronauts, the Return of Astronauts and the Return of Objects Launched into Outer
Space," "Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space
Objects, " and "Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer
Space," and has strictly performed its responsibilities and obligations.

China supports and has participated in the UN space
applications program. Since 1988, China has provided other developing countries every year
with scholarships for long-term space technology training. In 1994 , together with ESCAP,
China hosted in Beijing the first Asian-Pacific regional "Ministerial Conference on
Space Applications for Sustainable Development in Asia and the Pacific ," and the
"Beijing Declaration" issued after the conference has had a far-reaching
influence. In September 1999, in collaboration with the UN and ESA, the Chinese government
held in Beijing the "Symposium on Promoting Sustainable Agricultural Development with
Space Applications." From July to August 2000,together with the OOSA of the UN and
ESCAP, relevant departments of the Chinese government opened the Short-term Training
Course for Asia-Pacific Multilateral Cooperation in Space Technology and Applications.
Trainees from ten developing countries in the Asia- Pacific region attended the course.

The issue of space debris is a big challenge to
further expansion of space activities. The relevant departments of China pay great
attention to the problem, and have carried out research on this issue with related
countries since the beginning of the 1980s. In June 1995, CNSA acceded to the Inter-Agency
Space Debris Coordination Committee. China will continuously make efforts to explore,
together with other countries, ways and means to mitigate and reduce space debris, and
promote international cooperation on this issue.

In addition, China has participated in multilateral
cooperative projects, such as "Committee on Earth Observation Satellites, "
"World Weather Monitoring," "UN Decade of Disaster Mitigation, " and
"International Solar-Terrestrial Physics."

4. Commercial Launching Service: Ever since the
Chinese government made the declaration in 1985 that China’s "Long March"
launching vehicles would serve the international market and provide international
satellite launching service, up to October 2000 , China had successfully launched 27
foreign-made satellites for users in Pakistan, Australia, Sweden , the United States , the
Philippines, as well as domestic users. The service of "Long March " launching
vehicles in the international satellite launching market is a beneficial supplement to
international commercial satellite launching services, and it has provided foreign clients
with new options.

Priority Cooperation Areas

The Chinese government will continuously render
support to international exchanges and cooperation in space technology, space applications
and space science, with priority being given to cooperation in the following areas:

– Actively enhancing multilateral cooperation in
space technology and applications in the Asian-Pacific region, and promoting regional
economic growth and environmental and natural calamity monitoring with space technology.

– Supporting Chinese space enterprises to
participate in international space commercial launching services in line with the
principles of equality, equity and reciprocity.

– Giving support to using China’s mature space
technology and space application technology to carry out cooperation with other developing
countries and provide services to cooperating countries on the basis of mutual benefit.

– Supporting international exchanges and cooperation
in earth environment monitoring, space environmental exploration, and studies of
micro-gravity science, space physics and space astronomy , particularly international
exchanges and cooperation in micro-gravity fluid physics, space materials science, space
life science and space biology.

SpaceRef staff editor.