Spaceflight Now: Breaking News

China temporarily lifts veil on its secret space program

Posted: November 24, 2000

The first Shenzhou capsule lifts off atop a Long March rocket last November.
The Chinese government finally gave the outside world a view of its top-secret space program on Wednesday, after releasing a document that outlines its policy on the future of its man-in-space program and satellite launch industries.

This release comes amid speculation that another test flight of China's Shenzhou spacecraft, a prototype for a possible manned capsule. The Shenzhou craft completed its first flight one year ago this month.

The document said, "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."

The paper went on to say that the goals of their national space program include the exploration of space, to gain knowledge about space and Earth, to promote peaceful uses of space, and to protect China's national interests.

"China carries out its space activities for the purpose of satisfying the fundamental demands of its modernization drive," the release later said.

The document then flaunted its successes in placing homemade satellites into space using China-built launch vehicles. "By October 2000, China had developed and launched 47 satellites of various types, with a flight success rate of over 90%."

The government-released paper then said that China has four satellite series in operation at this point. The "Dongfanghong (DFH)" telecommunications series, the "Fengyun (FY)" meteorological series, the "Shijian (SJ)" research and technology series, and the "Ziyuan (ZY)" Earth observation series. The first spacecraft of the "ZY" series was recently launched.

The document then said that one of its long-term goals is to establish a manned spaceflight system and to "carry out manned spaceflight scientific research and technological experiments on a certain scale."

The paper also said that "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."

The release noted that China has made strides toward promoting international space cooperation, including the signing of an agreement with a dozen countries, including the United States, Russia, Japan, and several European countries, that allows the exchanging of scientists, the joint development of spacecraft components, and commercial launch services. Another point made in the report stated that China's commercial launch services had launched 27 foreign-made satellites using its Long March series of rockets.