Confirming its place as the world’s second space power, China is set to continue its cracking pace with around 30 state launches next year, not counting commercial launches.
China conducted 39 launches in 2018 including one failure – more than anyone else – and 29 so far in 2019, including two failures, with more to come.
Zhuang Jingguo, the chief engineer of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), outlined plans for around 30 launches in 2020 to reporters at the Fifth China International Commercial Aerospace Forum in late November.
CASC is the state operated enterprise that is China’s main space contractor.
Major planned launches for 2020 include the country’s first interplanetary mission to Mars and the return of lunar samples from the Chang’e-5 mission late in the year.
The test flight of the Long March 5B, a variant of the Long March 5 developed for Earth orbit missions, is expected next year. A successful test flight is a prerequisite for China to start launching modules for its planned space station around 2021.
Of great importance to China is completion of the Beidou navigation system, China’s version of the US GPS, European Galileo and others.
Two Beidou satellites were launched in November, with the used rocket booster destroying a house on the ground. Another Beidou launch is expected before end of year.
SpaceNews said that while China performs many launches, it still trails US and Russia for mass sent to orbit per year.
For launch numbers, the US could catch up next year with SpaceX alone planning 24 launches for its Starlink constellation next year.
China also has many up and coming private space companies, which appear to be some way behind the state enterprises and big private western space companies.
They are moving up fast thanks to abundant capital and a system which allows private actors to draw on state developed technology.
In July this year, iSpace became the first such firm to reach orbit. It could follow up with more launches of its Hyperbola-1 rocket next year.
After failing in its first attempt to reach orbit in March, OneSpace is expected to try again next year.
Space company Galactic Energy has said it plans to conduct its first launch next March.
Landspace made its first attempt to reach orbit last year. It has raised new funds for testing of its rockets, with a launch planned for 2021.
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