China plans space missions to dark side of the moon and Mars and beyond

China’s ambitious and fast-growing space program is targeting a landing on the dark side of the moon by 2018, and reaching Mars before the end of the decade.

China’s space agency held a press conference on Tuesday to mark the release of a policy paper, and outlined the government’s goals for exploring deep space.

Wu Yanhua, deputy chief of the National Space Administration, said Beijing aims to launch its first Mars probe around 2020 to carry out orbiting and roving exploration, followed by a second mission that would include collection of surface samples from the red planet.

China launched an ion drive HEP-100MF thruster. It was jointly developed by research teams from the Harbin Institute of Technology (H.I.T.) and the China Academy of Space Technology’s (CAST) Institute 502, successfully debuted Nov. 22 aboard an orbiting Shijian-17 satellite. The satellite was launched Nov. 3 by a Long March 5 rocket. This will be used for deep space missions.

China plans include sending probes to Jupiter and its moons. By around 2030, China hopes to be more competitive with NASA’s deep space program.

China has its complete space white paper online

China’s plans for the next 5 years in space are

1. Space transport system

We will develop and launch medium-lift launch vehicles which are non-toxic and pollution-free, improve the new-generation launch vehicle family, and enhance their reliability.

Endeavors will be made to research key technologies and further study the plans for developing heavy-lift launch vehicles. Breakthroughs are expected in key technologies for the overall system, high-thrust liquid oxygen and kerosene engines, and oxygen and hydrogen engines of such launch vehicles. Thereafter the heavy-lift launch vehicle project will be activated.

China will conduct research into the technologies for low-cost launch vehicles, new upper stage and the reusable space transportation system between the earth and low-earth orbit.

2. Space infrastructure

China is to improve its satellite systems and their basic related items, develop the three major satellite systems of remote-sensing, communications and broadcasting, and navigation and positioning, and build a space-ground integrated information network. In this way, a space infrastructure system capable of providing steady and sustained services will take shape, boosting the satellite and related applications industrial sector.

(1) Satellite remote-sensing system. In accordance with the policy guideline for developing multi-functional satellites, and creating networks of satellites and integrating them, we will focus on three series of satellites for observing the land, ocean and atmosphere, respectively. China is to develop and launch satellites capable of high-resolution multi-mode optical observation, L-band differential interferometric synthetic aperture radar imaging, carbon monitoring of the territorial ecosystem, atmospheric Lidar detection, ocean salinity detection and new-type ocean color observation. We will take steps to build our capabilities of highly efficient, comprehensive global observation and data acquisition with a rational allocation of low-, medium- and high-spatial resolution technologies, and an optimized combination of multiple observation methods. China will make overall construction and improvement on remote-sensing satellite receiving station networks, calibration and validation fields, data centers, data-sharing platforms and common application supporting platforms to provide remote-sensing satellite data receiving services across the world.

(2) Satellite communications and broadcasting system. This system is oriented toward industrial and market applications, and mainly operates through business models while meeting public welfare needs. China will develop both fixed and mobile communications and broadcasting as well as data relay satellites, build a space-ground integrated information network consisting of space-based systems such as high-earth-orbit broadband satellite systems and low-earth-orbit mobile satellite systems, and ground-based systems such as satellite-access stations. TT&C stations, gateway stations, uplink stations, calibration fields and other satellite ground facilities are to be built synchronously. These efforts are expected to bring about a comprehensive system capable of providing broadband communications, fixed communications, direct-broadcast television, mobile communications and mobile multimedia broadcast services. A global satellite communications and broadcasting system integrated with the ground communications network will be established step by step.

(3) Satellite navigation system. China is to continuously enhance the service capacities of the Beidou-2. With sustained efforts in building the Beidou global system, we plan to start providing basic services to countries along the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st-century Maritime Silk Road in 2018, form a network consisting of 35 satellites for global services by 2020, and provide all clients with more accurate and more reliable services through advancing the ground-based and satellite-based augmentation systems in an integrated way.

3. Manned spaceflight

China plans to launch the Tianzhou-1 cargo spacecraft to dock with the earth-orbiting Tiangong-2 space laboratory, and research and master key technologies for cargo transport and replenishment to accumulate experience in building and operating a space station.

We aim to complete the main research and development work on the space station modules, and start assembly and operation of the space station.

We strive to acquire key technologies and conduct experiments on such technologies to raise our manned spaceflight capacity, laying a foundation for exploring and developing cislunar space.

4. Deep-space exploration

China will continue its lunar exploration project, and strive to attain the automated extraterrestrial sampling and returning technology by space explorers. We plan to fulfill the three strategic steps of “orbiting, landing and returning” for the lunar exploration project by launching the Chang’ e-5 lunar probe by the end of 2017 and realizing regional soft landing, sampling and return. We will launch the Chang’e-4 lunar probe around 2018 to achieve mankind’ s first soft landing on the far side of the moon, and conduct in situ and roving detection and relay communications at earth-moon L2 point. Through the lunar exploration project, topographic and geological surveys will be implemented and laboratory research conducted on lunar samples; geological survey and research as well as low-frequency radio astronomy observation and research will be carried out targeting the landing area on the far side of the moon for a better understanding of the formation and evolution of the moon.

China intends to execute its first Mars exploration operation, and grasp key technologies for orbiting, landing and roving exploration. It plans to launch the first Mars probe by 2020 to carry out orbiting and roving exploration. It will conduct further studies and key technological research on the bringing back of samples from Mars, asteroid exploration, exploration of the Jupiter system and planet fly-by exploration. When conditions allow, related projects will be implemented to conduct research into major scientific questions such as the origin and evolution of the solar system, and search for extraterrestrial life

5. Experiments on new space technologies

China is to perform experiments on new space technologies to provide solid technological support for its space industry.

China will develop and launch technology experiment satellites, including the Shijian-13, Shijian-17 and Shijian-18, and a global carbon dioxide monitoring satellite, and conduct experiments on key technologies for new electric propulsion, laser communications and common platforms of new-generation communications satellites. It plans to build in-orbit servicing and maintenance systems for spacecraft and make in-orbit experiments on new theories, technologies and products by tapping various resources.

6. Space launch sites

China will improve its existing space launch sites by raising the reliability and IT application level and conducting adaptive improvements to ground facilities and equipment, and increasing the complementarity of mission enforcement and backup capacities of space launch sites, equipping them with basic capacities to carry out various launch missions. It will explore and advance the building of space launch sites that are open to cooperation and sharing, form a new space launch system featuring rational division of work, mutual complementarity, smooth coordination, security and reliability. The integrated capacities and functions of space launch sites will be enhanced and exploited to meet various needs.

7. Space TT and C

China will enhance its existing space TT and C systems. It aims to build and operate a second-generation relay satellite system, raise the accuracy of the orbit determination process for spacecraft, improve its TT and C capabilities in managing in-orbit spacecraft, and strengthen integrated and efficient utilization of TT and C resources, to build a space-ground integrated TT and C network featuring security, reliability, quick response, flexible access, efficient operation and diverse services. It plans to explore the development of commercial TT and C systems, seek new service modes, and intensify international cooperation and networking in the field of TT and C, forming a new TT and C service pattern marked by openness and sharing.

8. Space applications

China will improve its space application service system oriented toward industries, regions and the public, expand integrated application of space information, and improve the application and marketing of scientific and technological results. Consequently, the scale, operational standards and industrialization level of space applications will be raised to serve national security and national economic and social development.

(1) Industrial applications. In view of the need for global land surveying and geographic information acquisition, resource development and environmental protection, maritime development and management, and the protection of related rights and interests, natural disaster prevention and reduction and emergency response, global climate change control, food security, social management and public services, China plans to consolidate the integrated application of space infrastructure, and enhance its ability to provide timely, accurate and steady services.

(2) Regional applications. In view of the need for regional urban planning, construction, operation management and social services, China will develop comprehensive satellite applications, such as new urbanization layout, and smart towns and smart transport applications, to serve the coordinated development of the eastern, central, western, northeastern parts of the country, collaborated development of Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei, building of the Yangtze River Economic Belt, and economic and social development of other regions in China. In addition, China will intensify its services oriented toward the nationally targeted poverty alleviation and eradication, and operate space information services targeting old revolutionary base areas, ethnic minorities regions, frontier areas, poverty-stricken areas and islands in the sea.

(3) Public services. Aiming at public information consumption and services, including smart tourism, broadcasting and TV, distance learning, telemedicine, and cultural communication, China is determined to develop smart terminals of satellite applications and wearable electronics, improve space information fusion applications, and advance the industrialization of space applications, fostering new growth points for the national economy.

9. Space science

Targeting major frontier areas of space science and technology, China will implement a series of new space science satellite programs, establish a series of space science satellites featuring sustainable development, and reinforce basic application research. Major discoveries and breakthroughs are expected in the frontier areas of space science to further mankind’s knowledge of the universe.

(1) Space astronomy and space physics. China will seek evidence of the existence of dark matter by using dark matter particle exploration satellites to detect high-energy electrons and high-energy gamma rays in the universe. It plans to launch a hard X-ray modulation telescope to study the matter dynamics and high-energy radiation processes in the strong gravitational field of compact celestial bodies and black holes. Relevant resources will be brought into play for research into large-scale structure and interaction models of solar wind and the magnetosphere, and response to magnetospheric substorm change process.

(2) Scientific experiments in space. The Shijian-10 recoverable satellite, Chang’e probes, Shenzhou spacecraft, Tiangong-2 space laboratory and Tianzhou-1 cargo spacecraft are to be used to implement scientific experiments and research in biology, life sciences, medicine and materials in the space environment.

(3) Quantum experiments in space. Quantum experiment satellites are to be used to conduct experiments and research in the fields of quantum key transmission, quantum entanglement distribution, and quantum teleportation.

(4) Basic and applied research. China will carry out basic research into sun-earth space environment, space climate, and solar activity and its impact on space climate, and implement space-related interdisciplinary research as well. Comprehensive techniques will be developed for analyzing data from space observations on the properties of X-rays, the energy spectrum and spatial distribution of high-energy electrons and high-energy gamma rays, space physics, extraterrestrial celestial bodies, and the earth’s electromagnetic field and ionosphere, to promote the application of space research findings.

10. Space environment

China will improve the standardization system for space debris, near-earth objects and space climate. It will enhance the space debris basic database and data-sharing model, and advance the development of space debris monitoring facilities, the early warning and emergency response platform and the online service system, through reinforcing integrated utilization of resources. The protection systems of spacecraft will be further strengthened. Furthermore, efforts will be made to improve the space environment monitoring system and to build a disaster early warning and prediction platform to raise our preventative capability. It will conduct studies on the building of facilities for monitoring near-earth objects, and put the plan into operation to elevate our capability to monitor and catalog such objects. (more)