View profile

China Space News Update - Issue #7

Andrew Jones
Andrew Jones
Updates, context and reports on China’s expanding space activities, with the latest civil, commercial, policy, defence & exploration news.

This week: Shenzhou-12 returns to Earth, Tianzhou-3 rollout, Xi Jinping talks space
Shenzhou-12 returns to Earth
Astronauts Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo returned to Earth at 0134 UTC Friday, 92 days, 4 hours and 11 minutes after liftoff from Jiuquan on June 17. A quick rundown:
  • This was the first crewed mission to visit the Tianhe core module and the 3rd of 11 missions for construction of China’s Tiangong space station.
  • The crew conducted two extravehicular activities, 14 medical experiments, and captured some great images while on orbit.
  • This was the first Shenzhou landing in Dongfeng in the Gobi Desert. Previous landings targeted the grasslands of Siziwang, also in Inner Mongolia. The change is due to optimising recovery operations and increasing population density at the old site.
  • The crew flew back to Xijiao Military Airport, Beijing, before heading to Beijing Aerospace City where they will begin a a three-phase recovery process lasting six months.
  • SZ-12 was China’s longest human spaceflight mission to date, far surpassing the 33 days of SZ-11 in 2016.
  • Shenzhou-13 (October launch) will however likely be double the duration of Shenzhou-12.
Related: Russian Cosmonaut: Space cooperation with China can be mutually beneficial (CGTN)
Andrew Jones
This a very cool review of the Shenzhou-12 mission from China's human spaceflight agency, CMSA, posted on Weibo.
Tianzhou-2 circumnavigation and forward docking
The Tianzhou-2 cargo spacecraft undocked from the aft port of Tianhe at 0225 UTC Saturday, following the departure of Shenzhou-12 (for which Tianzhou-2 had delivered supplies and equipment). The spacecraft then circumnavigated Tianhe then docked with the forward docking ring, with the entire process taking around 4 hours, according to the China Manned Space Agency.
In this new position Tianzhou-2 will remain docked and verify propellant transfer. It will still be in place for the imminent visits of Tianzhou-3 and Shenzhou-13, meaning the latter will use a radial, or R-Bar, rendezvous approach and dock at Tianhe’s nadir docking port. Tianzhou-2 will then also be used as a prop for testing the use of the station’s robotic arm for manipulating the space statuon’s two experiment modules which are due to launch to Tianhe in 2022. Modules Mengtian and Wentian will dock at the forward port before being moved with the arm to lateral docking ports.
Tianzhou-2 launched in May and was the first visitor to Tianhe.
Andrew Jones
China Space Station: Tianzhou-2 separated from the aft port of Tianhe at 0225 UTC today, circumnavigating the core module and docking with the forward docking ring, a process of ~4 hours, according to CMSA. Propellant transfer tests expected. Source:
Tianzhou-3 rollout at Wenchang
While two space station missions are coming to an end, the next is set for launch. A Long March 7 carrying the Tianzhou-3 cargo spacecraft was vertically transferred to the pad at Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on Hainan island on Thursday, September 16. Launch is expected around 0710 UTC on Monday, September 20, possibly with live coverage from CCTV and others. TZ-3 will deliver supplies and equipment to Tianhe for the Shenzhou-13 crewed mission, which could launch as soon as early October from Jiuquan.
Xi Jinping commented on space during a visit to a Shaanxi military base on September 15. “Space assets are national strategic assets that must be well-managed and well-used and, more importantly, protected,” Xi said.
Xi also emphasised emergency backups, survival systems and information security. Notably he stated: “It is necessary to strengthen space traffic management to ensure stable and orderly operation of outer space, ” adding that it is necessary for international cooperation in space security to improve. (Chinese: CCTV, English: Global Times)
Notably former NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine and CNSA head Zhang Kejian discussed STM in 2018 and stated it to be an area in which the two could and should cooperate. (SpaceNews)
Commercial roundup
Private rocket firm iSpace (星际荣耀) will build rocket assembly and testing base in Daxing District, Beijing (iSpace)
Hypersonic spaceplane company Space Transportation (凌空天行) have secured a 100m yuan+ ($15.5m+) A+ round, just weeks after a 30m yuan A round. (凌空天, background: SpaceNews)
A LandSpace (蓝箭航天) liquid oxygen tank has been pictured at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre (posted on Twitter by Ace of Razgriz) as the firm builds towards launch of its medium-lift Zhuque-2 methane-LOX launcher.
Ace of Razgriz
Land Space's LOX tank at Jiuquan SLC. Sat image of the same area of 7 Sep. The Land space launch site should be in that two rectangle areas. credits showed in the pic.
New launch company Orienspace is recruiting, with centres in Beijing and Xi’an (Orienspace)
Policy roundup
Shanghai sets out 14th Five-Year Plan for advanced manufacturing: One of six key industry clusters, High-end equipment, includes a focus on the development of aerospace, intelligent manufacturing equipment and more. (Chinese doc: SCIO, English report: Shine)
Hunan Satellite Application Association was established to boost innovation in Beidou applications, attract talent (Hunan TV)
Related: Xi Jinping send congratulatory letter to 1st International Summit on BDS Applications (Beidou, Xinhua)
Related: Beidou Application International Training Center inaugurated in Beijing (AIRCAS)
Exploration updates
New details on China’s Mars Helicopter to Support Future Rover Exploration (IEEE Spectrum)
Chinese scientists eye hypersonic drone flight on Mars (SCMP)
China Post offers service to send letters to space (GT
Scientific Objectives and Payloads of the Lunar Sample Return Mission Chang’E-5 (Adv Space Research)
Zhurong and Tianwen-1 have likely already gone into a 50-day standby mode due to a solar conjunction affecting communications with Mars. (Background:
The Beijing Research Institute of Uranium Geology is studying Chang'e-5 samples for Helium-3 and radioactive elements such as Uranium. Other institutes are delving into the mysteries of lunar history. (
The SDGSAT-1 (Sustainable Development Goals Sat-1) is set to launch in October (CAS, XNA)
The Chang'e-5 orbiter returned to and passed the Moon and amateur satellite trackers are following it closely. (Background: SpaceNews)
Scott Tilley
#Change5 is returning to sane declinations 😀 Strong signal and even the first hints of the telemetry side-bands with the Mighty Little Dish (MLD)!
  • Beijing, the Capital of Chinese Space: deep-dive into China’s main space cluster (Dongfang Hour)
  • Paradigmatic shifts in space? Space policies of China and India: priorities, long-term focuses, and differences (Space Review)
  • Tracking China’s rapid rise in lunar exploration (interview with Su Yan of NAOC) (Physics World)
Thanks very much for reading, and comments and feedback are most welcome!
Did you enjoy this issue? Yes No
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.

In order to unsubscribe, click here.
If you were forwarded this newsletter and you like it, you can subscribe here.
Created with Revue by Twitter.