China’s space program achieved yet another success when it successfully dispatched its first group of three astronauts to the country’s under construction space station. China wants to have a fully functional station by 2022.
On June 17, 2021, China successfully launched the Shenzhou-12 spacecraft with three astronauts on board, marking a further step towards completing the construction of the country’s first planned space station, Tiangong.
The Shenzhou-12 spacecraft was launched Thursday morning by a Long March-2F launcher from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert in northwest China’s Gansu Province.
At 3:54 p.m. Beijing time, the Shenzhou-12 spaceship with the three astronauts successfully “docked” to the front part of the Tianhe core module after a quick “autonomous rendezvous” and, together with the Tianhe core module, formed a complex of three modules and that Freight spaceship Tianzhou-2. The entire process took about 6.5 hours.
At 6:48 p.m. Beijing time, the three astronauts successfully entered Tianhe’s core module, where they will live for three months. Among other things, you will conduct in-orbit tests of the Tianhe module, verify the recycling and life support system, test and train the robotic arm, and manage materials and waste.
The Shenzhou-12 launch is the third of eleven planned assembly missions for the construction of the Chinese space station, which is also the first of four manned astronaut missions.
From the start of the Chinese space program in the mid-1950s to a full space power with autonomous access to space and space exploration, China has been very persistent in pursuing a “space dream,” as Chinese President Xi said. Jinping said in 2013.
Especially in recent years, China’s space industry has made remarkable achievements.
In 2019, China became the first country to send an unmanned rover to the other side of the moon.
In 2020, China successfully launched its last Beidou satellite in June, sent an unmanned probe to Mars in July, launched an unmanned mission called Chang’e-5 in November to collect lunar material, and the Chang ‘landed successfully. e-5 probe on the lunar surface in December.
In 2021, China accelerated its Tiangong space station program with the successful launch of the Tianhe core module in April, the Tianzhou-2 cargo ship in May, the manned Shenzhou-12 spacecraft in June, and another planned Tianzhou-3 mission in September.
A more detailed timeline of the construction of the Chinese space station can be found below.
In the long term, China has set itself the following goals for its space program:
- Improve China’s position in the space exploration world
- Build a manned space station
- Crewed missions to the moon
- Establish a manned lunar base
- Robot mission to Mars
- Use the earth-moon space for industrial development
China’s aerospace activities are predominantly dominated by two state-owned companies: China Aerospace Science & Industry Corporation Limited (CASIC) and China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC).
CASIC and CASC provide the technologies and equipment required by government space and military programs, such as launch vehicles, satellites, manned spacecraft, cargo spacecraft, space explorers, space stations, nuclear missiles, conventional surface-to-surface missiles, and air and missile defense equipment.
The two state-owned companies have decades of experience, secure government funding, thousands of employees, dozens of laboratories and subsidiaries, and an established range of high-tech products and services.
For the years to come, the Chinese state space titans will continue to lead the country’s space program, while private commercial space companies are likely to serve as “complements” to China’s broader space activities.
In the past decade, the number of commercial space companies in China has grown explosively. By November 2020, China was home to over 160 commercial space companies.
More than half of them have been established since 2014 – a year after Xi Jinping took over the new leadership of China and the government decided to treat civil space development as a key area of innovation. The private space companies offer a range of services from satellite manufacture to rocket launch.
FutureAerospace, a government-funded industrial think tank, reports that investments in Chinese commercial space companies were RMB 3.57 billion ($ 550 million) in 2018 and RMB 30.6 billion (US $ 4.7 billion) by 2025 Dollars).
The upswing is fueled by the increasing demand for launch satellites. For the next decade, China has massive constellations of commercial satellites capable of offering services ranging from high-speed Internet for planes to tracking coal shipments.
To boost the commercial space industry, China is using government contracts and subsidies to get these companies up and running. However, government commercial space companies like Expace and China Rocket may have easier access to government funding and Chinese funding. Private commercial space companies either receive government support or seek venture capital.
A 2019 report by the Institute for Defense Analyzes estimated that VC funding for Chinese aerospace companies reached $ 516 million in 2018, despite the amount well below the $ 2.2 billion raised by American companies. Unlike American companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin, whose billionaire founders are willing to take big, expensive risks, late-starters Chinese companies need to consider whether they can be backed by deeply rooted and risky investors.
Some private companies like LandSpace and MinoSpace have succeeded in attracting foreign investment that could make it easier for them to compete on a global scale by taking on overseas clients, establishing from other countries, and attracting international talent.
However, maintaining investor confidence will not be easy. Currently, none of the new commercial space companies are profitable. The success rates of these companies at launch were unpredictable. And they haven’t shown any signs of explosive innovation – the current offerings consist almost entirely of small, single-use solid fuel rockets.
As a result, China’s private commercial space sector is not yet in a position to turn the state-dominated or global space ecosystems upside down in the foreseeable future, although new entrants could potentially tap into niche areas in the domestic market.
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