Sci-tech Advances
China on overtaking lane for aerospace technology development


China is now on the overtaking lane of aerospace technology development and is poised to become a major aerospace power in the world, a noted Chinese academician said Tuesday.

Chinese Academy of Engineering academician Wu Weiren, who is also the chief designer of China’s lunar exploration program, said at the 3rd China Aeronautical Science and Technology Conference (CASTC) that China is no longer a mere follower in the world’s arena on aerospace technology, but a leader in many areas.

The two-day CASTC 2017 opened on Tuesday on the sideline of this year’s Aviation Expo China in Beijing.

The rapid growth of the nation’s aerospace technology development can be felt in the development of the country’s carrier rockets. Since 1970, when China launched its first carrier rocket the Long March-1, Chinese scientists have conducted 250 carrier rocket launches as of September, with a 97 percent success rate, according to Wu.

“We used 37 years to complete the first 100 launches, but only seven years for the second 100,” Wu praised, adding that the launch of Long March-5 carrier rocket, with a maximum load capacity of 25 tons, also led China to a new era of heavy-lift rocket.

As for manned missions, Wu said China would be only country with a space lab in orbit by 2024. That same year, Chinese astronauts will be able to collect some two kilograms of soil from the moon. The space lab is scheduled for 2020, when China’s navigation system Beidou will cover all regions in the world.

Currently, China ranks second in the world in terms of the number of orbiting satellites, with a total of 171 satellites out of over 1,400 of those in space. The US has more than 590 satellites on orbit, Wu noted.

China’s remarkable satellite development, including high throughput satellites that can deliver 20GB bandwidth and remote sensing satellites with resolution ratio below one meter, have also become popular made-in-China product in the overseas market.

The nation has conducted 49 commercial satellites launches for other countries, and 14 of China’s homemade satellites have been exported overseas. In general, the China National Space Administration already inked 117 cooperation deals with 37 countries and four international organizations, Wu said.

With the advancement in China’s aerospace industry, the manufacturing capacity has been greatly strengthened. The country is now capable of manufacturing 30 rockets or 40 satellites in a year under independent research and development, he added.

Specifically, China has been witnessing a rising number of research projects focused on new engine types over the past decades. The number of new engines under research in the past 10 years was three times of that of the US, Xiang Qiao, general manager assistant of Aero Engine Corporation, revealed at CASTC.

Achievements in the aerospace industry have also benefited other industries. More than 2,000 technology results have been applied for civil uses, and 80 percent of the new materials used in civil projects came from the industry, according to Wu.

However, the academician also warned that China is the only major aerospace power without aerospace law, which should be promulgated.

China is putting more emphasis on the industry. It also set up an aerospace awareness day on every April 24, starting from 2016. By 2050 - the third and final goal in the three-step aerospace plan of China, Chinese scientists may have already landed on Mars and there might be a research and development base on the moon, while Chinese scientists would be able to explore as far as 10 billion kilometers away from the Earth, Wu envisioned.

(From People’s Daily, September 20, 2017. Jiang Jie contributed.)