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Chang'e 6 and new rockets highlight China's packed 2024 space agenda
A moon rocket stands ready for launch at Wenchang, China.
Chang'e 6 and new rockets highlight China's packed 2024 space agenda
by Simon Mansfield
Sydney, Australia (SPX) Feb 27, 2024

China has announced plans to undertake around 100 space launch missions within the year, setting a new precedent for its national space industry's activity levels. This ambitious agenda, disclosed by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp (CASC), the leading state-owned space contractor, at a news conference in Beijing, underscores China's accelerating pace in the global space race.

CASC is slated to execute nearly 70 of these missions, with an impressive goal of deploying over 290 spacecraft into orbit. Ma Tao, deputy head of CASC's space program planning department, detailed the company's comprehensive schedule that spans a wide range of missions, from deploying satellites to ambitious exploratory ventures beyond Earth.

A significant highlight of the year's schedule includes two crewed missions and two cargo missions to the Tiangong space station, further advancing China's capabilities in maintaining a human presence in orbit. Additionally, the Chang'e 6 mission is earmarked as a landmark project, aiming to return samples from the moon's far side, a feat not yet achieved by any country. This mission seeks to collect samples from the South Pole-Aitken Basin, an area of high scientific interest due to its unexplored nature and potential for new discoveries.

The year also heralds the introduction of the Long March 6C and Long March 12 carrier rockets, marking significant expansions in China's launch vehicle fleet. These additions are poised to enhance China's payload deployment capabilities, offering new opportunities for both domestic and international satellite missions.

The Chang'e 6 mission stands out for its ambitious goal of returning lunar samples from the far side of the moon, an area previously unvisited by sample return missions. This mission not only aims to enrich our understanding of the moon's composition but also sets a new benchmark for lunar exploration.

Ma also mentioned the upcoming launch of several advanced spacecraft, including a satellite focused on ocean salinity monitoring and an astronomical satellite developed in collaboration with French scientists. These missions reflect China's growing emphasis on utilizing space technology for a broad spectrum of scientific research and global collaboration.

The bulk of the planned launches will utilize the Long March rocket family, a testament to the reliability and versatility of China's primary launch vehicles. Additionally, the schedule includes launches from the Smart Dragon secondary rocket series, the Kuaizhou fleet of the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp, and several launches by private Chinese companies, highlighting the expanding role of commercial players in the national space sector.

Looking beyond 2024, CASC is not slowing down, with ongoing research, development, and construction of over 200 spacecraft, including a new-generation crewed spaceship, the Chang'e 7 lunar probe, the Tianwen 2 asteroid explorer, and numerous advanced satellites. The construction of more than 230 rockets is also underway, ensuring a steady cadence of missions in the years to follow.

China's space endeavors in the previous year positioned it as the second globally in terms of launch numbers, with a total of 67 rocket launches, all of which were successful. This achievement, coupled with the increasing involvement of private companies in the rocket industry, showcases the rapid growth and diversification of China's space capabilities.

As China embarks on this record-setting schedule of space missions, the global space community watches closely. The outcomes of these missions, particularly the pioneering endeavors like Chang'e 6, will not only advance our understanding of space but also redefine the possibilities of exploration and utilization of outer space for future generations.

Based on a Xinhua News Agency article

Related Links
China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation
The Chinese Space Program - News, Policy and Technology
China News from SinoDaily.com

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