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Chinese Space Programme

CNSA China National Space Administration

Environmental Science

Although military rocket and missile technology has been in development since the 1950s, the Chinese space programme did not take hold of the nation's collective imagination till the turn of the century.

Now, the Moon unmanned orbiters, landers and rovers, as well as humans in orbit, are paving the way for an ambitious programme which promises to see the Chinese on the Moon in person, and expand their exploration to Mars and beyond.

Early Days

Extending its ballistic missile programme of the 1960s, China decided in 1967 to begin development of space technologies. Its first attempt at launching a satellite with the first of the Long March SLV (satellite launch vehicle) in August 1969 ended in failure. The Dong Fang Hong 1 satellite was successfully placed in orbit on 24 April 1970, atop a CZ-1 rocket.

A manned crew space programme (Project 714) was started in April 1971, but was cancelled due to political unrest during the Cultural Revolution.

A recoverable satellite was sent successfully into orbit in 1975, which led eventually to a commercial satellite programme by 1985.

The China Ministry of Aerospace Industry was founded in 1988, and the National Space Bureau in 1993.


On February 15, 1996, a Long March 3B rocket failed during launch and crashed, killing a reported 500 or more civilians.

21st Century

On October 15, 2003, a crew of three was sent into orbit for 21 hours, making China the third country to have manned space flight capability.

Environmental Science
Tiangong-1 ("Heavenly Palace") is China's first space station. The first docking was automatic, the second with manned crew.

China's space programme is now focused on the Moon. On October 24, 2007, the unmanned Chang'e 1 lunar orbiter was launched as part of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Programme. On December 14, 2013, Chang'e 3 set down a rover on the surface of the Moon.

Shenzhou 7 was a manned space mission with a spacewalk.

Tiangong-1 ("Heavenly Palace") is China's first space station. Launched on a Long March 2F/G rocket on 29 September 2011. Eventually a larger, modular station will be in orbit by 2023.

Shenzhou-9 crew were superstars for the public

Shenzhou 9: 16 June 2012. Liu Yang, China's first female astronaut. This mission included a docking with the Tiangong-1 space station.

Wang Yaping, Chinese astronaut on Shenzhou 10, 2013

Shenzhou 10 was a further 3-person mission to dock with Tiangong-1, returning to Earth after 15 days on 26 June 2013. This mission carried Wang Yaping, the second Chinese female astronaut

Launch of a Long March CZ-2F rocket
Chang'e 3 Rover on the Moon, December 2013
Chinese CZ-3C launcher
Chinese Mission Control

Content © Andrew Bone. All rights reserved. Created : January 2, 2015 Last updated :April 11, 2016

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