Space industry soars to new heights

Updated: Jan 10, 2019 China Daily Print

However, the tech tycoon was wrong-it was the third time China had outperformed the US in launch attempts, the previous times being in 2011 and 2012.

The first space launch last year was made by Musk's Falcon 9 Full Thrust rocket to send a classified US satellite into orbit. The satellite was feared lost shortly after launch due to technical problems.

The last launch of the year was that of China's Long March 2D rocket, which successfully placed into orbit the first satellite of what is intended to be the nation's largest space-based network.

Of China's 39 missions, 37 were conducted by the major space contractor China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp's Long March series. All were successful.

Another State-owned contractor, China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp, made one successful launch with its Kuaizhou rocket, while LandSpace, a private rocket maker in Beijing, carried out its first launch, also the first orbital attempt by a privately built Chinese carrier rocket, although the mission failed due to malfunctions in flight.

These missions involved nine types of Chinese carrier rockets that thrust 104 spacecraft, including the Chang'e 4 lunar explorer, skywards.

Pang Zhihao, a spaceflight researcher at the China Academy of Space Technology, said the unprecedented number of launches last year and the high success rate are evidence of the country's rocket research and manufacturing capabilities and the quality of its space products.

He said: "For instance, the Long March 3A series had a tight launch schedule in 2018 that was much more intense than previously. But the rocket maker cooperated very well with its engine supplier as well as the launch center, and together they managed to ensure the success of every mission despite huge pressure. All of these factors show that the country is now an experienced space launcher."

Jin Zhiqiang, a rocket project manager at China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp, said the Long March 3A series was the busiest rocket classification last year, with 14 missions. He said the series has produced one of the most reliable rockets in the world, capable of ensuring missions to various types of orbits.

He said the 100th launch in the Long March 3A series will take place in the first half of this year, making the classification the first to achieve this milestone.

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