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China Space News Update #9: Zhuhai Airshow, a lost satellite, exploration updates and more

Andrew Jones
Andrew Jones
Updates, context and reports on China’s expanding space activities, with the latest civil, commercial, policy and exploration news.
Here’s the roundup for 27 September-3 October, 2021.

This week: Zhuhai Airshow, a lost satellite, exploration updates and more
The return-to-flight of the Kuaizhou-1A on September 27, 2021. Credit: Expace
The return-to-flight of the Kuaizhou-1A on September 27, 2021. Credit: Expace
The Zhuhai Airshow returned after missing 2020, running from Sept. 28-Oct. 3 in Zhuhai, south China. Typically focused on aviation, there was also an extraordinary range of space exhibitors showcasing the latest missions and plans from state-owned actors like the CASC and commercial companies involved in areas such as launch and satellite manufacturing. The show also hosted the signing of numerous contracts.
Most notable among the many exhibits were various elements of China’s plans to get astronauts to and from the Moon by around 2030, including a new-generation crew launcher, the super heavy-lift Long March 9, and the charred return capsule of a prototype new-gen crew spacecraft. More details:
China displays crewed moon landing mission elements - SpaceNews
Also on display: The Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology (SAST) unveiled a concept for servicing geostationary satellites, or a “Space Tanker,” following in the footsteps on Northrop Grumman’s MEV. It can carry up to 1.3 tonnes of fuel, or 52 percent of the spacecraft’s total mass. (More: Science and Technology Daily, SAST, Xinhua (Eng))
As previously noted, the Chinese Hα Solar Explorer (CHASE) was presented and will launch in October, carrying a H-alpha imaging spectrograph. The ~500 kg satellite will operate in a 517km SSO orbit and complement the ASO-S satellite which is due to launch in H1 2022.
A new kerolox YF-102 engine is in the latter stages of development and testing and could be ready in 2022. A reusable, variable thrust version is also being considered.
CNSA Watcher
CASC revealed new LOX/kerosene engine YF-102 with 85t thrust. The engine has lower cost with 3D printing technique in manufacturing. It can replace engines in existing rocket models and potentially be implemented in reusable and commercial rockets. Full HD:
There were also models of the Tianwen-1 Mars orbiter, the Zhurong rover and lander and Chang'e-5 spacecraft stack.
Deals and other developments
The China Great Wall Industry Corporation (CGWIC) of CASC arranged to provide the satellite and launch, etc, for a China European-African High-throughput Communication Satellite System for APT Mobile SatCom Limited (APSAT).
CASC’s main satellite maker, the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST), signed contracts for four major projects totalling 15.6 billion yuan ($2.4 bn), including the above comms sat for APSAT, a marine satellite for the National Satellite Ocean Application Service, and more. (CAST)
Galaxy Space, which last year launched and tested a first commercial Q/V band low Earth orbit communications satellite, will 6 satellites on Long March 2C launch in Q1 2022 (Galaxy Space)
MinoSpace, a small satellite developer and manufacturer, also signed with CGWIC to put 7 sats on the second Long March 8 flight in early 2022. (MinoSpace)
ADA Space (国星宇航), a commercial satellite developer and AI satellite data service company, will also have a presence on February’s Long March 8. (ADA Space)
Carmaker Geely’s satellite arm Shikong Daoyu signs contract to launch a number of navigation enhancement satellites on Long March rockets. (Shikong Daoyu)
Commercial launch firm Galactic Energy and Minospace enter a launch contract (Galactic Energy, MinoSpace).
Private satellite manufacturer Spacety and state-owned behemoth China Electronics and Technology Corporation’s (CETC) 38th Institute will collaborate on the Tianxian constellation, a 96-satellite synthetic aperture radar constellation. The first satellites will be on February’s Long March 8 Y2 launch. (SciTech Daily)
Meanwhile, Long March 8 is to become China’s main medium-class rocket, according to the rocket’s chief designer. If new, dedicated launch pads are constructed at Wenchang the rocket could theoretically launch every 7 days, or 50 times a year, according to Xiao Yun. The rocket had a first launch in December 2020 and it is being prepared to test first stage vertical recovery. (CCTV)
Return-to-flight and lost experimental satellite
The Kuaizhou-1A, a light-lift solid rocket developed by CASIC and operated by subsidiary Expace, had a successful return-to-flight on September 27 after being grounded for just over a year following a September 2020 failure.
The rocket lifted off from Jiuquan at 0619 UTC, placing the Jilin-1 Gaofen 02D Earth observation satellite into a 532 x 545-kilometre orbit inclined by 97.5 degrees for Chang Guang Satellite Technology Co. Ltd, a commercial spinoff from the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ CIOMP in Changchun. A further KZ-1A could launch soon, as well as the larger Kuaizhou-11, which failed with its test flight in July 2020.
Just over two hours later (0821) in Xichang, southwest China, a Long March 3B lifted off with an unknown, classified payload. Apart from video evidence of launch and a swiftly deleted mission poster, silence followed for almost a day.
Chinese state media confirmed abnormal function of the satellite (and that it was indeed named Shiyan-10) on September 28, likely after attempts to establish contact with the spacecraft. The satellite remains in its original transfer orbit of 40,102 x 175 kilometres inclined by 51.08 degrees. More: SpaceNews.
The launches were China’s 35th and 36th of 2021. 33 have been carried out by CASC, one by Expace, and two by private firm iSpace, both of which ended in failure. CASC is aiming for 40+ launches this year. Last Monday’s Long March 3B flight was stated to be normal and may not affect CASC’s plans, unless its performance led to the failure of the satellite.
Classified satellite declared lost after China launches twice in 2 hours - SpaceNews
Commercial roundup
Outside of Zhuhai the satellite arm of Chinese carmaker Geely, Shikong Daoyu, has announced that a first satellite for a future precise point positioning PPP-RTK constellation has rolled out at its factory in Taizhou. The satellites will enhance Beidou navigation signals for greater accuracy and provide connectivity for Geely’s plans for autonomous driving. (Shikong Daoyu)
Space Transportation (凌空天行), a commercial hypersonic spaceplane company, conducted a fourth flight test of a Tianxing-1 rocket. (Space Transportation)
EXA Tech, which makes radiation-hardened microchips for space systems, raises tens of millions of yuan in Pre-A round (36Kr)
The Guangzhou subsidiary of Chinese Academy of Sciences’ commercial launch spinoff CAS Space has opened offices in the city’s Nansha district, while the ZK-1A solid rocket is now expected to launch for the first time in early 2022. The firm was earlier targeting September this year for its first orbital launch. (CAS Space)
Exploration news
Russian-Chinese Joint Seminar on Cooperation in International Lunar Research Station: The pair led a closed-door ILRS workshop in Zhuhai on September 27, involving experts from France, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, Malaysia, Thailand, UNOOSA, ESA and the Asia-Pacific Space Cooperation Organization (APSCO). A declaration and cooperation document will be presented at the 72nd International Astronautical Congress in Dubai, UAE, later this month. (CNSA)
The Chang’e-4 lander and Yutu-2 rover have survived 1,000 (Earth) days on the far side of the Moon, and began their 35th lunar day of activities on September 29. Chang'e-4 made the first-ever landing on the far side of the Moon on January 3, 2019. (China Lunar Exploration Program)
Reviews of a second round of applications to loan Chang'e-5 lunar samples is set for October 8, with 42 applications from Chinese institutes and universities. (CLEP)
An analysis of Tianwen-1’s communications relay orbit (Daniel Estévez)
Preprints under review
Lunar regolith and substructure at Chang’E-5 landing site in the northern Oceanus Procellarum. The paper–yet to be peer reviewed–assesses data from the Chang'e-5 Lunar Regolith Penetrating Radar, providing insight into the subsurface. (Nature preprint)
Localization and Surface Characterization by Zhurong Mars Rover at Utopia Planitia (Nature preprint))
The geological features at the landing site. Ding et al, 2021. Link above. (CC BY 4.0).
The geological features at the landing site. Ding et al, 2021. Link above. (CC BY 4.0).
How scientists designed the soft lunar landing of the Chang’e-5 module
‘Global Strike From Space;’ Did Kendall Reveal Chinese Threat? (Breaking Defense) 29.09
Pakistan, China space cooperation being revved up (IANS)
DoD trying to keep China from accessing critical U. technology (SpaceNews)
China opens Shenzhou-12 return capsule at ceremony (Xinhua)
Space arms control
China blasts US for being stumbling block in space arms control (Global Times)
China urges US to join talks on preventing arms race in space (SCMP)
Global Strike From Space;’ Did Kendall Reveal Chinese Threat? (Breaking Defense)
Chinese commercial satellite has been spotting meteors and aurora | Space
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Andrew Jones
Andrew Jones @AJ_FI

A weekly roundup of developments in the nebulous but energetic Chinese space sector. Created by freelance space reporter and correspondent Andrew Jones.

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