The Chinese space program in scale, scope and pursued goals continues similar "imperial" projects of the Soviet Union and the United States. It puts an extensive set of applied tasks of an economic, military, and scientific and technical nature. But this is not limited. Space activities are one of the important tools for strengthening China’s status as a new superpower.
The fundamental decision on the need to develop the space program was made by Mao Zedong in 1958 year. Shortly after the launch of the Soviet satellite, the country, with difficulty with the help of the release of trucks and MiG-19 fighters, launched the program “Liang Dant and Shin” - two bombs (atomic, thermonuclear) and one satellite. It became the basis of a decade science and technology policy. It was assumed that the implementation of the program will ensure the independence and defense of China, will strengthen the prestige of the new government.
The atomic and thermonuclear bombs were tested in 1964 and 1967, and in 1970 the launch vehicle “Great campaign-1”, created on the basis of Dongfeng-4 BRSD, the Chinese launched the first satellite.
The relatively rapid development of national programs for the development of ballistic missiles and launch vehicles became possible thanks to technical assistance from the USSR in the 50s and the fatal miscalculation allowed by the US government. The Soviet Union transferred the production technology of the P-1 and P-5 missiles (a variant of the latter, known as DF-2, for a long time became the basis of the Chinese nuclear forces). The United States provided the Chinese with something that they would never have received in the USSR. In 1950, in the wake of McCarthyism, the FBI suspected (most likely unfoundedly) the communist activities of a prominent American missile scientist, Qiang Xuesen. He was harassed, suspended from work. But there was no evidence against him, and in 1955, he was allowed to leave the United States. If from the USSR the Chinese received only well-trained young engineers, then from America came to them a world-class scientist who was able to independently implement the most complex technical projects.
As a result, the conventional arms industry of the Middle Kingdom and in the 80-s continued to produce improved modifications of the Soviet 50-s technology, but the rocket industry, despite the general scarcity of resources, became a growth point. In 1971, flight tests of the Chinese Dongfeng-5 intercontinental ballistic missile began. For the PRC space program, it played exactly the same role as the P-7 ICBM for the Soviet, acting as the progenitor of the most widely used RN family - CZ-2 (“Great Trip-2”).
The second attempt
History manned space flight counts from July 14 on 1967, when the State Council and the Central Military Council of the People's Republic of China approved the Shuguang project (the 714 project). The decision was taken on the basis of prestige considerations without taking into account the real technical capabilities of the country. The first manned space flight was planned on 1973. The ship "Shuguang" with two astronauts, according to published documents, was supposed to resemble American Gemini.
In 1968, the Center for Space Medicine is based in Beijing. At the start of 70, 19 astronaut candidates are selected from fighter pilots. But in 1972, the project was closed due to obvious technical impracticability. Shuguan was an example of a deliberately unrealistic design. For its implementation took on a wave of dizziness from past successes. An even more eloquent example of such an approach is the 640 project, a program for creating a strategic missile defense system that was rolled out at the beginning of 80 after huge waste.
Subsequently, the Chinese acted more cautiously. The space program developed even against the background of a general sharp reduction in defense spending in the 80-s, demonstrating some success. In 1984, the first Chinese telecommunications satellite, DFH-2, appeared in orbit, and by 2000, the Chinese grouping of such devices had increased to 33. Advances in the development of telecommunications satellites allowed building an experimental positioning system "Beidou-2000" covering the territory of the People's Republic of China in 2003 – 1, and starting with creating a full-fledged "Beidou-2007" from 2.
The ability to maintain a powerful grouping of such spacecraft in combination with its own global positioning communications system is of growing military importance, as China turns into a major global manufacturer and exporter of MALE-class UAVs (medium altitude, longer duration of flight). They are controlled via satellite communication channel and require high-quality transmission of huge amounts of video information and other data. Since 1988, the PRC has launched a series of Fengyun meteorological satellites into heliosynchronous orbits. 14 launches of such spacecraft were made, one of which, having completed its FY-1C, was destroyed during the tests of the Chinese anti-satellite weapons in 2007 year.
Russia was a key partner of China in space exploration, having played a special role in the 90 in promoting the Chinese manned program known as the 921 project (launched in 1992). Beijing was assisted in the organization of a cosmonaut training system, the design of spacesuits and ships of the Shenzhou series, which made their first manned flight in 2003. Ukraine became another important partner, all the 1990s and 2000s almost free of charge transferred Soviet military and dual technologies to the Chinese. With the Ukrainian help, the People's Republic of China mastered the production of an analogue of the Soviet liquid-propellant rocket engine RD-120, which allowed the Chinese to move in the direction of creating their own heavy LV.
Self-reliance (with a reservation on the openness of international cooperation) is an important principle of the Chinese space program. It is enshrined in official documents - the White Paper published on 2006 and 2011 White Paper on space activities of the PRC. The country carries out programs of international cooperation in space with Russia, the European Union, and developing countries. But the ultimate goal is to increase their own capabilities in the exploration of extraterrestrial space.
Beijing declares its commitment to the peaceful use of outer space, but understands this solely as a refusal to deploy weapons. China - one of the world leaders in the creation of ground-based anti-satellite systems, produces a wide range of reconnaissance satellites.
Currently, the Chinese program is developing in the following important areas. The development of a new generation of launch vehicles CZ-5, CZ-6, CZ-7 is nearing completion. A group of artificial Earth satellites is growing with a simultaneous increase in their technical level, and an increase in the duration of their service. The use of satellites in telecommunications and television is expanding. By 2020, the construction of the national Beidou global positioning system should be completed. New research satellites, including the X-ray orbital telescope, are being prepared for launch. In the field of manned space exploration, flights to the Tiangong orbital modules will be carried out, docking technologies and units of the future station, and cargo ships will be developed. Exploration will continue on the program for a manned flight to the moon, research aimed at soft landing and delivery to the Earth of soil samples. It is planned to develop ground-based infrastructure, in particular, the new Wenchang cosmodrome on Hainan Island and fleet spacecraft space tracking "Yuanwang."
In January, 2013-th became known indicators, which should be achieved by 2020 year. By this date, China will have at least 200 spacecraft in orbit, and the number of launches of PH will increase on average to 30 per year. Exports of products and services will be at least 15 percent of revenues from space activities. By the year 2020, the construction of a national orbital station should be basically completed, so that the crew worked on it all the time with 2022.
Already at the end of 2014, China bypassed Russia by the number of satellites operating in orbit, 139 units. In 2015, he performed 19 RN launches, taking third place after the Russian Federation (29) and the USA (20). This year, the number of Chinese orbital launches is expected to exceed 20. It should be noted that in recent years, the percentage of failures in the PRC is lower than in the United States and Russia.
In the field of manned cosmonautics, the Tiangong program is of paramount importance. It assumes that three so-called target modules are put into orbit in succession - analogues of an orbital station that have only one docking station. The Tiangun modules are able to provide crews with a stay for 20 days. Having a two-year life cycle, in fact, “Tyingong-1”, launched into orbit in September by 2011, stopped data transmission to Earth only last March, having managed to make three docking with the “Shenzhou” spacecraft. The "Tiangun-2" module will be launched this year. It is assumed that these works will allow the Chinese space industry to hone all the necessary technologies to 2020, when with the help of more powerful launch vehicles "Great March-5" it will be possible to put into orbit the modules of the first national orbital station.
Back in 90, China achieved success in building optical-electronic reconnaissance satellites, the first of which was developed jointly with Brazilians ZiYuan-1 (Resource), launched into orbit in 1999. It was followed by a series of exploration ZiYuan-2 (all of them are declared by the Chinese government as geological). In 2006, a program was launched to create the Yaogan group in orbit (remote sensing). The satellites of this series include several types of spacecraft intended for conducting radar, electro-optical, and electronic reconnaissance.
“Chinese satellites of electron-optical intelligence, according to American estimates, already in 2014, had a resolution of 0,6 – 0,8 meter”
In total, 36 Yaoganey has been launched into orbit. Today, the creation of an orbital constellation of satellites intended for marine radar reconnaissance is of particular strategic importance. It is assumed that they should be the main source of target designation for the anti-ship ballistic missile complexes DF-21D and DF-26D.
Associated with the programs to create anti-satellite weapons are projects of military special mission spacecraft of the SJ ("Shijian") family, on the basis of which orbital fighter satellites are created. Experiments on approaching and docking are carried out with the SJ placed into orbit.
Another program with an obvious military component is the unmanned orbital aircraft "Shenlong", resembling in size and layout the famous American X-37. It is planned that “Shenlong” will start with the suspension of a specially equipped H-6 bomber.
To bring such satellites into orbit in a special period, China is working on solid-propellant Great-11 rocket launchers based on the design of the DF-31 ICBMs, which can be used from mobile launchers. In addition, based on the DF-31 and DF-21 BRSD, two families of land-based missiles (KT-1, KT-2) are created, equipped with kinetic interceptor warheads. This program is closely connected with another major project - the creation of a national strategic missile defense system. This time, unlike in 70, the PRC has every chance to finish the job.
The Ukrainian crisis, which occurred against the background of a simultaneous deterioration in relations between China and the United States, led to some intensification of Russian-Chinese space cooperation, which significantly slowed down after 1990-x - the beginning of 2000-x. Promising areas of cooperation include the integration of Beidou and GLONASS navigation systems, possible deliveries of RD-180 engines to China, purchases of electronic components to the People's Republic of China, and joint research projects on the Moon and deep space. As far as can be judged, all projects are at the stage of development or at an early stage of implementation. All such complex technical programs require long coordination, so that we can see the results of joint programs only in a few years.