China breaks ground on space launch center

Sep 14, 2009 By CHRISTOPHER BODEEN , Associated Press Writer
People walk past a China's space program decoration setup as part of the up-coming 60th National Day celebration in Beijing Monday, Sept. 14, 2009. China broke ground Monday on the country's fourth space center that will launches of communications satellites as well as components for a future space station and deep space exploration. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

(AP) -- China broke ground on its fourth space center Monday, highlighting the country's soaring space ambitions six years after it sent its first man into orbit.

The space port on the southern island province of Hainan incorporates a launch site and mission control center for slinging the country's massive new rockets into space carrying satellites and components for a future space station and deep space exploration.

The reports portrayed the center as a major stride forward for China's military-backed space program, which has launched three manned missions since 2003, including one last year that featured the country's first space walk.

China's future space ambitions include building an orbiting station and sending a mission to the moon, putting it in the forefront of the tightening Asian space race involving India, Japan and South Korea. China says its space program is purely for peaceful ends, although its military background and Beijing's development of anti-satellite weapons have prompted some to question that.

The Hainan center, located near the town of Wenchang and slated to go into use in 2013, is located at a latitude of about 19 degrees north, far closer to the equator than China's other bases in the its southwest and northern plains.

Proximity to the equator is an advantage for launching payloads such as geostationary satellites used for telecommunications because less fuel propellant is needed. Reports said rockets launched from the Hainan base will be capable of carrying up to 14 percent more payload than those launched from Jiuquan, the home of the manned space program in northern China.

That added capacity should aid particularly in China's space station program as well as plans to assemble the Beidou, or "Compass," navigation system as an alternative to the U.S. satellite GPS network, the dominant positioning system.

The center is also served by a nearby port, allowing for the transport by ship of components such as the new generation Long March 5 rocket capable of launching 25-ton components for a space station or future lunar missions. China's other space centers are located in remote parts of the country that rely on limited capacity rail links to transport rockets and other components.

According to media reports, the Hainan center's construction involves upgrading a small satellite launch pad already on the site and building a second pad and other infrastructure. More than 6,000 area residents are being moved to procure the 3,000 acres (1,200 hectares) needed for the base.

is just the third country after Russia and the United States to have launched a person into space, and has long operated a successful commercial satellite launch program.

Officials say plans call for an unmanned moon landing around 2012, a mission to return samples in 2015, and possibly a manned lunar mission by 2017 - three years ahead of an initial U.S. target date for returning to the moon.

Viewed as a source of national pride and patriotism, the program's strong public support helps shield it from the public doubts and budgetary pressures that constrain such programs elsewhere.

However, cooperation in space with other countries has been inhibited by wariness over the program's close military ties. Highlighting that relationship, Chang Wanquan, a People's Liberation Army general who sits on the ruling Communist Party's powerful central military commission, joined other officers and technicians in Monday's groundbreaking ceremony, the reports said.

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Explore further: Total lunar eclipse before dawn on April 4th

Related Stories

China seeks space station access

Jun 29, 2006

China has allowed reporters inside its space launch control room at Aerospace City near Beijing as part of an effort to join in the world's space projects.

Shenzhou 6 Tab: US$111m

Oct 18, 2005

China has spent 900 million yuan (US$111.2 million) on its successful second manned space mission and has great interest in launching commercial satellites for global clients, a senior official said.

Recommended for you

Total lunar eclipse before dawn on April 4th

19 hours ago

An unusually brief total eclipse of the Moon will be visible before dawn this Saturday, April 4th, from western North America. The eclipse happens on Saturday evening for Australia and East Asia.

Cassini: Return to Rhea

Mar 30, 2015

After a couple of years in high-inclination orbits that limited its ability to encounter Saturn's moons, NASA's Cassini spacecraft returned to Saturn's equatorial plane in March 2015.

Comet dust—planet Mercury's 'invisible paint'

Mar 30, 2015

A team of scientists has a new explanation for the planet Mercury's dark, barely reflective surface. In a paper published in Nature Geoscience, the researchers suggest that a steady dusting of carbon from p ...

It's 'full spin ahead' for NASA soil moisture mapper

Mar 30, 2015

The 20-foot (6-meter) "golden lasso" reflector antenna atop NASA's new Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory is now ready to wrangle up high-resolution global soil moisture data, following the successful ...

What drives the solar cycle?

Mar 30, 2015

You can be thankful that we bask in the glow of a relatively placid star. Currently about halfway along its 10 billion year career on the Main Sequence, our sun fuses hydrogen into helium in a battle against ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.