China New space center takes giant leap forward


Regular Member
Aug 5, 2009
China boldly began work Monday on a space launch center in Wenchang city in the northeast corner of the tropical island province of Hainan, laying more groundwork for the nation's more sophisticated space program.

The Hainan Space Launch Center, the fourth and most southerly in China, will be finished by 2013.

It will be capable of launching 10 to 12 vehicles a year.

The center will handle new-generation rocket-carriers and space vehicles, including geo-synchronous satellites, polar-orbiting satellites, space stations and deep-space exploration satellites, said Wang Weichang, director of the Hainan space center project headquarters.

Wang was speaking during the cornerstone-laying ceremony at the center.

Future manned flights into space will mainly be launched from Hainan, with some blasting off from Gansu province.

The Xichang launch center, in Sichuan province, will be the back-up for the Hainan center, said Zhang Ping, deputy director of the Hainan headquarters.

Experts say the Hainan site will be more convenient than the other three sites and be able to handle more payload. It will also cost less to launch vehicles from Hainan.

The current three space launch centers - in Jiuquan, Gansu (the country's first, built in 1958), Sichuan and Shanxi provinces - are inland and railways are used to transport rocket-carriers to the launch sites.

Because of the limitations imposed by railway tunnels, China's current launch vehicles tend to be "tall and slim", said Pang Zhihao, a researcher and the deputy editor-in-chief of the monthly Space International.

The new launch center is accessible from the sea and will be able to accept much larger launchers with more power and bigger payloads.

"In future, domestic rocket-carriers could be short and stout, which will make them easier to control in flight and, therefore, more reliable," Pang said.

The fact that the new launch center is so far south, just 19 degrees north of the equator, is also beneficial. Pang said rocket-carriers blasting off from close to the equator can carry heavier payloads because they can use the Earth's rotation to assist their ascent.

Long Lehao, an expert on the Long March series of rockets, said earlier that a launch vehicle lifting off from Hainan would be able to carry 7.4 percent more than a vehicle lifting off from Xichang launch center, which is 27 degrees north of the equator. With China's current launch vehicles, that would mean carrying 300 kg more in cargo.

The location of the new launch site is also a bonus because any failure during takeoff would not mean debris could fall on a populated area, Pang said.

"It will enable China to take part in more international commercial space launches," Wang Weichang said.

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