China’s Long March to the Stars Continues

Long March 7 rocket launches on maiden voyage from China’s new Wenchang Space Launch Center 

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Space news (Chinese space program: new launch systems; Long March 7 (LM-7) rocket) – 12:00 UTC, Wenchang Space Launch Center, Hainan Island, China – 

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China’s next-generation medium-lift orbital launch vehicle the Chang Zheng-7 (CZ-7) lifted slowly from Launch Complex LC101 of China’s new Wenchang Space Launch Center at 12:00 UTC (5:00 PST) on June 25, 2016. On the maiden voyage of China’s new Long March 7 (LM-7) rocket to test its flight capabilities in anticipation of achieving operational status and eventually qualifying for unmanned and manned space missions in the future.

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Carrying a smaller, scaled-down prototype of their next generation crew capsule (NGCV) that was successfully recovered later in Inner Mongolia, the LM-7 test flight went off without a hitch. China’s new launch vehicle was developed by China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT) to replace the aging LM-2, LM-3, and LM-4 hypergolic launch vehicles in the future. It will also be used to lift their new Tianzhou cargo vehicle into orbit for the Tiangong-2 program, along with modules for the Tiangong space station in a few years. 

The new LM-7 is powered by the YF-100, a two-stage combustion cycle engine developed at China’s Academy of Aerospace Liquid Propulsion Technology, and certified for use by the State Administration of Science, Technology, and Industry for National Defence. The first stage uses two engines and strap-on boosters each with a single engine. The second stage utilizes a YF-115 with four engines. China’s new medium-lift orbital launch vehicle operates on liquid oxygen and kerosene, capable of a lift-off thrust of 7,200 kN, and carrying around 13,500 kg 400 km, or 5,500 kg 700 km, above the surface of the Earth.

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Located in the northeast corner of the island of Hainan on the southern coast of China, a place on the Earth closer to the equator than their three other launch complexes, vehicles launched from China’s new Wenchang Space Launch Center benefit from the increased rotational speed of the planet at this location as compared to the other three sites. It reduces the amount of fuel required for the launch vehicle to maneuver from transit orbit to GEO. It should also avoid the possibility of rocket debris falling into populated areas since the launch vehicle can be directed toward the southeast and into the expansive South Pacific. 

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China’s next generation crew vehicle (NGCV) the Shenzhou manned space capsule’s based on the proven Russian Soyuz design. China expects to implement their new crew vehicle during the launch and construction of the Tiangong-2 space station near the end of 2016. They’ll also use it during the orbital construction of the modular Tiangong space station currently scheduled for the beginning of 2018. China’s in the development of new next generation manned space capsules to enable future and more ambitious space missions to the Moon and even manned missions to the Red Planet. 

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China’s heading to the stars

They expect to use their future space capsules to ferry material and astronauts to and from space stations in the LEO, to send explorers to the Moon, near-Earth asteroids, and possibly Mars once they’re ready. Capable of carrying 2 to 6 astronauts, it will have two versions, a 14-ton version for traveling to LEO, near-Earth asteroids, and Mars, and a 20-ton model for lunar missions. Designed and engineered to spend up to 21 days in independent orbit or two years if docked at a space station, China’s next generation space capsule (NGCV)’s a versatile beast fitted with two different service modules, each with a different propulsion system. A beast expected to take China’s astronauts and dreams of exploring the solar system to Mars and beyond during the decades ahead for their space program.  

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Read and learn about NASA’s selection of five American aerospace firms to study concepts for missions to Mars.

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Join the space journey of China as it makes plans to explore the solar system and beyond here

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Explore the launch vehicles designed and built by China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology.

Learn more about China’s Academy of Aerospace Liquid Propulsion Technology here

Chinese Astronomy Hosts the World

Astronomers from around the world were in attendance
Chinese astronomy hosted astronomers from around the world

Chinese astronomy and astronauts prepare to head to the stars

Astronomy News (August 2012) –

A red August sun hangs in Beijing’s afternoon sky as over 3,000 of the world’s top astronomers arrive in the city for the first hosting of the annual two-week meeting of the International Astronomical Union in China. This first hosting of the annual meeting of the top astronomers in the world marks a significant step in the Chinese desire to reclaim an astronomical heritage thousands of years in the making after a 46-year long break brought about by China’s 1966 Cultural Revolution. A break that has put Chinese astronomy and astronomers lagging behind the West in both technology and facilities designed to help man study the stars and lost China its seat as one of the leaders of the human journey to the beginning of space and time.

Chinese astronomer Li Shu
Chinese astronomer Li Shu

The roots of Chinese astronomy go deep into the history of the human journey to the beginning of space and time, back to a time when many people in the western world were still worshipping heavenly bodies in the sky as deities. As early as 2650 B.C., Chinese astronomers were recording the changes and patterns in the sky. Chinese astronomer Li Shu was recording his sightings of the sky over China during this period, including solar eclipses, which to the ancient Chinese meant dragons were devouring the sun. Total solar eclipses were often also used to determine the future health and welfare of current emperors and empires and according to some Chinese historians led to the downfall of dynasties in ancient China. A Chinese calendar from the period used the location of star Antares to mark the start of each year. Over 4 centuries later, Chinese astronomers were still timing solstices and equinoxes using Antares and three other stars as their guide, as described in the ‘Chinese Book of Documents’ Canon of Yao.

'Chinese Book of Documents’ Canon of Yao.
Documents describe how Chinese astronomers used the stars to help predict solstices and equinoxes

Thousands of years ago Chinese astronomers spent whole lifetimes studying the stars and charted the events they saw occurring in the night sky. They recorded the deaths of at least ninety exploding stars in the night sky between 1700 B.C. and 1600 A.D. Designed, engineered and built instruments and devices to help map the night sky and accurately keep track of time. These sky maps and timekeeping devices were then used by ancient Chinese astronomers to determine future alignments of stars and planets and the correct times to plant and harvest crops.

Drive along Chang’an Avenue, just east of Tiananmen Square, and you’ll see ancient relics of China’s astronomical past. Eight astronomical instruments, each hundreds of years old, sit poised atop the spot where Beijing’s Ancient Observatory was built during the Ming Dynasty around 1442. This location was popular with ancient Chinese astronomers of this period of history from around China and the world and was used to map the heavens for hundreds of years.

Beijing’s Ancient Observatory
Beijing’s Ancient Observatory is a testament to the technological achievements of Chinese astronomy

Today Chinese astronomy is once again reclaiming its seat on the human journey to the beginning of space and time. In the decades ahead China will likely be a leader and significant partner in the human desire to travel through the solar system and into the cosmos. In fact, the first human to step onto a planet in our solar system, other than Earth, could be Chinese and possibly female.

Chinese Astronomy Stands Ready to Lead the Human Journey to the Beginning of Space and Time

The Chinese celestial dragon is preparing to stand and spread its wings across the breadth of the solar system during the decades ahead. Driven by an ancient desire to understand and explore the universe, China has been investing time, energy and money during the past two decades in new facilities to help study the stars. China has started designing, engineering and building new astronomical observatories throughout the country and even in space. In the years ahead Chinese astronomers will likely provide new astronomy insights and discoveries to delight the soul and inspire the stargazer within us all. Setting the stage for China to once again take its seat as a leader of the human journey to the beginning of space and time and become a valuable partner in the human desire to reach the stars.

LAMOST (Large Sky Area Multi-Object Fiber Spectroscopic Telescope
Chinese astronomers will use LAMOST (Large Sky Area Multi-Object Fiber Spectroscopic Telescope to help create a three-dimensional catalog of millions of stars in the Milky Way

Chinese astronomers and astronauts stand ready to lead the next phase of human space exploration

71 miles (114 kilometers) north of Beijing, at the Xinglong Mountain Observatory, sits LAMOST (Large Sky Area Multi-Object Fiber Spectroscopic Telescope) a new instrument named for 13th-century Chinese astronomer Guo Shou Jing. Built to help Chinese astronomy survey the stars of the Milky Way, in order to try to determine the structure of our galaxy, LAMOST will collect the light from around 4,000 stars at once using a 20-degree field of view. Capable of determining the line-of-sight velocity of millions of stars in the sky, Chinese astronomers expect LAMOST to achieve its greatest results when teamed with the data expected from the European Space Agency’s GAIA spacecraft, which is set to launch in 2013. Together, LAMOST and GAIA should be able to provide us with a three-dimensional catalog of millions of the stars in the Milky Way. This achievement would be a big step toward Chinese astronomy once again becoming a leader in the human journey to the beginning of space and time.

European Space Agency’s GAIA spacecraft
The GAIA spacecraft will team with Chinese astronomers to create a three-dimensional catalog of millions of stars in the Milky Way

Click this link to watch a YouTube documentary on the 90th anniversary of the Chinese Astronomical Society

90th anniversary of the Chinese Astronomical Society

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