China sets out a clear and independent long-term vision for space

HELSINKI — China’s main space contractor is working to make the country a leading space power with an emphasis on developing capabilities, space infrastructure and self-reliance.

Wu Yansheng, chairman of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), the country’s main space contractor, outlined a number of goals in a lecture relay by China Central Television December 20.

Among the ambitions are known plans for a manned lunar landing along with others exploration and transportation goals, while emphasizing the importance of space infrastructure and developing capabilities such as on-orbit servicing, building a space governance system.

The plans are presented as following a strategic plan by Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping to build a powerful space nation. The plan is being developed as part of a broader Xi-led push for technological and economic self-sufficiency amid steps the US is taking to “disengage” itself from economic engagement with China.

The primary ambition is for China to become one of the world’s major aerospace powers by 2030 and to become a fully integrated space power by 2045. CASC, ranking 322 on this year’s Fortune 500 list, has previously stated plans to make China a world leader in space technology by 2045, a focus seen by some as challenge to the USA

Major topics focus on space transportation, space exploration, governance, and national space infrastructure. The latter likely combines constellations and Earth observation, telecommunications and navigation and positioning services and provides global coverage.

Space transportation emphasizes the development of smart and reusable launch vehicles to provide economical, fast and reliable access to space.

CASC aims to fully improve China’s ability to use space by continuing to “upgrade and improve our space infrastructure, establish an on-orbit service and maintenance system, actively promote the construction of a next-generation space infrastructure system,” according to automatic translation. and achieve efficient, low-cost transport by 2030.

The giant space and defense contractor is already working on reusable rockets, including the Long March 8R, Great March 9 and suborbital and orbital spaceship.

The presentation also notes the need to build a system of space legislation and governance of the space environment, and develop capabilities for space awareness and space debris removal.

Wu said there are challenges, especially including conditions created by the US that “rekindle great power competition”, the so-called “Wolf Clause”, kept out of the International Space Station project and Chinese aerospace companies added to the US export blacklists. The US is also seen by Wu as seeking to seize strategic resources, including specific orbits, locations and radio frequencies.

The presentation underscores both long-term goals with strong political support evident, but also that China is focused on achieving goals and building capabilities independently, rather than relying heavily on international cooperation.

As for more short-term goals, Wu Yansheng stated plans to land a crew on the Moon 2030establishing it International Lunar Research Station (ILRS) in the 2030s, then three Chang’e robotic landing missions during this decade. However, China is pursuing collaborations for IRLS, which will be developed in parallel and separately from the US Artemis program.

China is also planning a return sample mission to Mars in the “next 10 to 15 years”, suggesting a possible delay previous plans to deliver material from the Red Planet to Earth in 2031.

Missions aimed at head and tail of the solstice and separately, Jupiter and Neptune are also noted. A CASC program to study exoplanets called the “Miyin Project” is also mentioned.

CASC this year completed China’s Tiangong Space Station builds and then launches the three modules into low Earth orbit. China also has plans they expand Tiangongstarting with a second core unit and connection hub.

CASC has previously published grand plans for space, including a space transportation roadmap to 2045, and plans to develop a $10 trillion Earth-Moon Economic Belt.

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