China prepares to take aerospace industry to next level in 2018
The year 2018 will witness more China-made satellites being sent into space with greater frequency, which will incentivize China to produce more rockets effectively and also show the strength of China's aerospace industry, experts said.
From January 12 to February 12, China sent four BeiDou satellites into space. The Long March-3B carrier rocket took off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center carrying twin satellites, which are coded as the 26th and 27th satellites in the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS), on January 12 and another two satellites on February 12, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
The four satellites form a network with two previously launched BeiDou-3 satellites.
Monday's was the seventh successful launch in 2018 and marked the full implementation of China's BDS project, which will help promote the Belt and Road initiative, Zhang Jinrong, deputy chief designer of the Long March 3A rocket, told the Global Times.
"The Monday launch was arranged ahead of the Chinese Lunar New Year since we have intensive launch missions in 2018, and it also meets the requirement of implementing the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System project," Zhang said, adding that the successful launch could also be regarded as a gift to the country, the Communist Party of China and the Chinese people.
"The launch missions have gone from dozens times a year to more than 30 times a year as China has steadily promoted major aerospace projects, including manned space flights, and the BDS project, and there have been more launch missions of commercial satellites," Zhang noted.
There will be 10 launch missions for the BDS project, 14 for the Long March 3A series, and the intensive launching will be a challenge for China's aerospace industry, including the production of rockets and ensuring their quality, Zhang said.
Due to the launch schedule of 2018, many of the staff have to stay at the Xichang Launch center for nearly a year, Cen Zheng, rocket system commander-in-chief of the Long March 3A rocket mission, told the Global Times.
"It's our responsibility to ensure the rockets are of high quality and that they launch successfully. Successful launches have become the belief of our team. Every success will promote faster and better development," Cen said.
In order to keep up with the high intensity of the launch missions, Cen's team has worked to generalize the rocket components and assemble them for different launch missions, Cen introduced.
"The aerospace industry is high risk. Although China's Long March rocket family have maintained a relatively high success rate, high intensity launches demand higher quality. And an accident in one launch will affect the whole industry. That's why it's our mission to ensure quality," Zhang said.
Zhang said that more launch missions bring pressure as well as an incentive to enhance research and development in the aerospace industry, forcing China to pursue effectiveness as well as quality at the same time.
Zhang also said that high intensity launches also demonstrate the prosperous development of China's aerospace industry, showing that Chinese technology has been enhanced and the aerospace industry is making more contributions to national defense, economic prosperity and social development.
In response to the heated discussions on the successful launch of the Space X Falcon Heavy among Chinese netizens, Zhang sent congratulations, saying that it was a major event in U.S. aerospace history and the quick development of SpaceX has been very enlightening for other countries.
China is actively conducting research into heavy rockets and has made periodic achievements on certain key technologies, which has laid the foundation for future moon landing missions and deep space exploration, Zhang said.
Most of the 2018 launch missions will take place at the Xichang Launch Center, which the Global Times visited on February 9.
The command and control center is the size of a cinema and divided into a projected display area, working area and guest area.
Hu Jie, an engineer from the launch center, told the Global Times that they deal with launching data and information in the center, while experts also make key decisions there.
Wang Sheng, another engineer from the center, told the Global Times that the Xichang center was linked with monitoring systems in other locations days before the launch.
In addition to efforts made by research and development staff, people in other positions at the center also make their own various contributions.
Yao Xiaobing, who is responsible for supervising the fuel pipes and sending fuel to the rockets, insists on checking the pipes every day to prevent any accidents.
"The amount of fuel used during the intensive launching period was double the usual. No matter what my position is, I just want to fulfill my duty and not delay the launch," Yao said.