China's Space Program News Thread


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First photo of the Tianzhou's accompanying space telescope.
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The mirror (Silicon carbide) is 2 meters in diameter and the entire telescope weighs 10 tons (in comparison the Hubble had a 2.4 meter diameter mirror and the James Webb will have a total diameter of 6.5 meters, comprised of multiple mirrors).
James Webb telescope is not optical ..isn't it?


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China carried out a secretive space launch Thursday night, debuting a new solid-fueled launch vehicle known as Kaituozhe-2 launching an experimental satellite into orbit. Liftoff from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center took place at 23:53 UTC and orbital data shows the mission was successful in reaching a Low Earth Orbit. Official Chinese media confirmed the success of the launch and identified the launch vehicle as KT-2 and the satellite as TK-1.

Over the past two years, China introduced a total of five new rockets – three new additions to the country’s Long March series that builds the backbone of China’s space architecture and two solid-fueled rockets optimized for cost-effective satellite deliveries into Low Earth Orbit. Thursday night’s mission stood out as virtually no details on the launch were released beforehand.

Kaituozhe, Chinese for ‘Explorer,’ represents a family of orbital launch vehicles developed by the China Aerospace Science & Industry Corporation (CASIC) dating back to 2000 when development of the KT-1 rocket began based on the Dong Feng-31 Intercontinental Ballistic Missile...

The maiden launch of the KT-2A booster lifted the Tiankun-1 satellite into orbit. TK-1, the New Technology Experimental Satellite, reportedly carries a remote sensing payload and aims to demonstrate a new small satellite platform developed by the second bureau of CASIC. Development of CASIC’s first satellite started in March 2014 and its mission will be filled with a number of validation tasks to demonstrate the spacecraft platform and its integrated electronics and communications system as well as the remote sensing payload...


Tiankun-1 is the first satellite independently developed by CASIC. CASIC stated after launch that the satellite, work on which started in 2014, carries visible light, infrared, microwave and other remote sensing and communications payloads. Its purposes are related to space debris observation and rapid acquisition of multi-source remote sensing information, and test related to boosting rapid response capability. KT-2:250kg/700km SSO,350kg LEO.


Chang'e-5 will be delivered to the Wenchang launch site in August in preparation for its launch in late November. The mission will be the most sophisticated lunar expedition China has ever made. It will face a lot of challenges such as the great number of demanding maneuvers and the complicated condition of its landing site. The 8.2-metric ton probe has four components, an orbiter, lander, ascender and re-entry module.


Although quite dated, the following source is a gold mine for information regarding the development of Chinese solid-fueled rocket motors & its applications.

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I'll do a quick recap of the interesting points:
  • A new high-energy propellant, dubbed the N-15, has been widely used, including on the JL-2, DF-41, PL-12, HQ-9A, CZ-11, Kuaizhou, DF-21, DF-31, and other missiles
  • The CZ-6 will be developed into the new CZ-6A variant, with four 2-meter-diameter solid rocket boosters, set to fly between 2017-2020. It will use the same engine found on the Long March 11. (Image below)
  • DF-41 has a range of 14000 km (from a military presentation)
  • JL-2B (possibly another name for the rumored JL-2A?) has a range of 12000 km (from military presentation)
  • New solid rockets (including the CZ-11 & CZ-6A boosters) utilize the CL-20 explosive, widely used across the United States.
  • There are plans to develop the CZ-5B with two large (3.35 diameter) solid boosters rather than use four liquid boosters; this would approximately double its takeoff thrust.


This type of delivery method can also be used for anti satellite kill vehicle like the US did with pegassus
Henri K has article on this I will posted next to this article
China to develop satellite-delivery rockets released from airplanes
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Like this US trial

China to develop satellite-delivery rockets released from airplanes
By Zhao Lei | China Daily | Updated: 2017-03-07 07:56

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China will develop a new generation of rockets launched from aircraft that can put satellites into space, according to Li Tongyu, the head of carrier rocket development at the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology.

Air-launched rockets can rapidly replace dysfunctional satellites or, in cases of disaster relief, quickly send up Earth observation satellites to assist in the effort, Li said.

Designers at the academy, which is the main developer of Chinese carrier rockets, have designed a model capable of sending a payload of about 100 kilograms into low Earth orbit and are ready to produce one if the government asks, he said. They plan to design a larger rocket that could carry 200 kg into orbit.

"The Y-20 strategic transport plane will be the carrier of these rockets. The jet will hold a rocket within its fuselage and release it at a certain altitude. The rocket will be ignited after it leaves the plane," Li said.

Large satellites will still have to be put into orbit with conventional rockets, experts said.

Delivery of the Y-20 to the Chinese Air Force began in July. It is China's first domestically developed heavy-lift transport plane and has a maximum takeoff weight of more than 200 metric tons and a maximum payload of about 66 tons, aviation experts said.

Solid-fuel rockets can be launched from planes much faster than land-based, liquid-fueled rockets, where preparation can take days, weeks or longer, in part because it takes so much time to pump in the fuel, experts said.

Each mission involving a solid-fuel rocket launched by a Y-20 would take only 12 hours of preparation to place a 200 kg satellite into a sun-synchronous orbit 700 km above Earth, according to estimates by Long Lehao, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, and other researchers at the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology. The estimates were in an article published in October in the Journal of Deep-Space Exploration.

Other advantages of such rockets are that they are flexible in deployment and use and do not need ground infrastructure, said Pang Zhihao, executive editor-in-chief of Space International magazine. They also are less susceptible to bad weather and launch costs are lower than those of ground-launched rockets, he added.

The United States undertook the world's first air-launched space mission in 1990, in which a Pegasus rocket developed by the former Orbital Sciences Corp was launched from a refitted B-52 strategic bomber to send two small satellites into orbit. Since then, 43 Pegasus missions have been carried out, with the most recent in December.

Several US space companies, including Virgin Galactic and Generation Orbit Launch Services, are developing air-launched rockets.

Chinese designers have been quietly working on the concept for years. China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp, parent of Li's academy, displayed a scale model of a winged, solid-propellant, air-launched rocket in 2006 at the Sixth China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, Guangdong province.
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From Henri K
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The Long March family of space launchers may soon be able to welcome a new, rather special, member who will be launched not from a ground shoot but from a Y-20 military transport plane , if we believe in a new Declaration of the aerospace group CASC.

According to LI Tong Yu, head of the rocket development department of the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT), which is one of the country's leading launchers and ballistic missile manufacturers, will develop a new rocket To launch satellites in orbit.

"Our engineers have created the model of a rocket capable of placing 100 kg of payloads in low orbit, and it can be manufactured if necessary. "LI told China Daily newspaper," It is planned to develop a larger version, capable of increasing the capacity to 200 kg. ".

"The rocket will be installed inside the hold of a Y-20 transport aircraft. Once the launch altitude is reached, it will be dropped in flight before continuing on its way alone. "

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The model of an airborne CASC launcher exhibited in 2006.

Knowing that CALT had already exhibited an airborne launcher model in 2006 at the Zhuhai Air Show, but no project was finally launched, one can then wonder if this is an announcement effect - The 5th session of the 12th National People's Congress is being held in Beijing and it is a good opportunity to lobby the MPs - or the issue is really on the table.

The first element, which shows that maybe this project is actually on track, comes from a framework document
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in October 2016 and titled "
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". This document is co-authored by three people from the CASC group, including academic
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- chief engineer of the Long Marche launch vehicle family and also deputy chief engineer of the Chinese lunar program.

In chapter 4.3.2 "Projects under planning", the "airborne launcher" is one of the five models of future launchers - including the CZ-8 , CZ-3D , CZ-3E and CZ super-heavy launcher -9 - that must be developed to supplement the lack capability in space launch of China.

It reads: "The Y-20 transport aircraft will be the carrier of the future airborne launcher, which will be integrated into the bunker. The launch cycle is 12 hours, and the launcher's carrying capacity is 200 kg or more in 700 km SSO. "

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The new members of the Long Marche launch vehicle family, including the airborne launcher (1st left)

According to the document, China is expected to launch more than 400 spacecraft by 2030, including 20 satellite platforms, three types of lunar probe, two (inhabited) ship models, one space station, and one " Target gear ". But the argument to justify the development of an airborne launcher was not specified in the text, unlike all the other launchers mentioned.

So what would this first Chinese airborne launcher look like, which will serve as a priori the Y-20 as a carrier-aircraft?

For this purpose, we will draw on a few academic documents published between 2007 and 2013, to follow the research that has been carried out so far and to try to understand the operational need behind it.

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Configuration of the airborne launcher selected until 2008

In October 2007, a researcher and her two colleagues working at the Beijing Institute of Space System Engineering, a subsidiary of CALT, published a paper on multidisciplinary optimization of the design of an airborne launcher.

It is thus known that until that date, CALT was still considering designing a launcher hanging on the outside of its aircraft-carrier, hence the presence of a wing on the body of the rocket, like the
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. It will also be noted that the illustration (see above) of the craft in the document bears the insignia of the Chinese army on the empennage.

As of 2008, research appears to have taken a different direction, towards a launch configuration whose satellite launcher will be dropped from the inside of the aircraft's hold. Indeed, the University of Engineering of the Chinese Air Force and the North West Polytechnic University - both very involved in the development of armaments projects - have launched joint studies on separation Of the airborne launcher of the cargo hold of its carrier.

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Two ways to drop an airborne launcher.

Researchers at these two Chinese universities have created simulations to study two types of dropping - the head or tail of the launcher that comes out of the cargo bay first - while citing the US Air Force's experiments with the C-17A . Computer simulation of drops occurs at an altitude of 10,000 meters when the carrier aircraft flies at a speed of Mach 0.75.

The conclusion of the simulations shows that even if there are a few more technical difficulties in releasing the airborne launcher by putting the rear part out of the hold first, the launcher will lose less altitude and less speed and l Angle of incidence will also be lower. This will help to improve the carrying capacity of the launcher.

In January 2011, the same teams of the two Chinese universities again published a study, this time on the longitudinal disturbance during the launch of airborne launcher, indicating that the research in this direction continued and was mainly deepened.



A year and a half later, researchers from the Chinese Air Force Engineering University wrote two other research papers, one on the aerodynamic characteristics of the airborne launcher shortly after the launch, Now at 15,000 meters of altitude and at Mach 0.6 - with an optimized model of the launcher - and the other on the physical constraints that the airborne launcher undergoes during the launch.

All this research carried out by military engineers resulted in an "integrated simulation", which also takes into account the "real models" of the airborne launcher, the brake parachute and the carrier aircraft, the results of which have been published in September 2013. And it is clear in this new paper always written by the researchers of the Chinese Air Force University, the digital model of Y-20 that was used in the simulations.

Numerical simulation of the launch of an airborne launcher from a Y-20.

All this shows that the pre-studies have reached a relatively high level, probably near the stage of the flight test with a physical model. The recent statement by the CASC group on the development of the airborne launcher is therefore based on a certain technical level which seems solid.

As for the interest in developing a launcher capable of placing less than one ton in orbit - knowing that China already has 5 new small launchers ( CZ-6 , CZ-11 , KZ-1 , KZ-1A , KT-1 ), all of which have successfully completed their first flights, plus at least two other small private launchers under development - apart from the few theoretical advantages we already know, namely delta-V gain and load-weight ratio Useful on total mass, as well as the flexibility of the launch site and the lack of heavy infrastructure on the ground, Chinese researchers have not mentioned the real reasons for their studies.

In the 2008 document quoted at the top, one can simply read that "the very long ground preparation time for each satellite launch ... [...] ... strongly limits the military scope of space technologies".

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The military space launcher KZ-1

Referring now to the academic document LONG, in which it is explicitly stated that the preparation of launching will last only 12 hours for the future airborne launcher, one could perhaps compare it with the military launcher KZ-1 (Kuaizhou-1), which was designed to be able to orbit small reconnaissance and communication satellites in less than 48 hours, when "normal" satellites are shot down during a strong conflict intensity.

This capacity to restore its space tools in a reactive way is also developed and implemented by the United States, through the program "Operationally Responsive Space" (ORS). Satellites designed for this purpose, usually of small size, are integrated and tested in advance with their launchers. The ready-to-serve assembly is then stored in a fortification (in the case of China), and depending on the need the satellite launcher will be transferred to a TEL (Tractor-erector-launcher) before being fired as a Ballistic missile. The launching is thus carried out in a mobile manner, without a fixed installation, and will then be less vulnerable to enemy air (or ballistic) strikes.

This new airborne launcher will therefore provide an alternative, or rather complementary, solution to this ORS method based on ground launchers.

Another advantage would be to take advantage of the development of this airborne launcher to check the feasibility of the airborne ballistic missile, like what the US Air Force had already tested in the 70's with the GAM-87 and the LGM-30A M inuteman . Rumors are actually circulating about the existence of similar projects in China but few elements are available today.

With all the elements we have today, it is believed that the future airborne Chinese launcher would be a solid 4-stage propellant rocket. For the version capable of placing 100 kg in low orbit, it should be less than 20 meters in length, less than 2 meters in diameter and a take-off weight less than 20 tonnes. This leaves room for the 200 kg version, given the size and carrying capacity of the Y-20.

In the old folder "
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", We tried to understand, in vain, why a somewhat particular Y-20 has passed the test bench to undergo static tests, while the program is already in a very advanced state.

What if the answer is precisely in this new airborne launcher of the Long March family?

To be continued.

Henri K.