The 2017 Global Space Exploration Conference, held in Beijing, gathered together experts in space technology, exploration and even astronauts, such as America’s Buzz Aldrin, to discuss future possibilities.
China is also keen to provide space services for other countries including commercial launches and sending their satellites into orbit.
It’s potentially big business, with an estimated 3 to 4 hundred satellites destined to be sent into space each year for the coming ten years.
Cutting the cost of getting such hardware into space has become a hot topic among space experts.
Wang Xiaojun, project leader of the Long March-7 carrier rocket, said they kept costs down by decreasing the number of expensive sensors on board, expanding the rocket’s carrying capacity by around 70 percent, and greatly improving its reliability.
Intelligent design of another model of rockets, the Kuaizhou, or KZ series, has also managed to further lower the cost. The KZ-1A uses solid fuel, can be prepared for launch quicker, and needs a less complex launch site.
Although it can only carry around 200 kilograms, it reduces the cost of sending small low-orbit satellites to just 30,000 U.S. dollars per kilogram; compared to the more usual 40,000 dollars.
Duan Xiangjun who heads the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation said “a large proportion of our country’s satellites weigh less than one metric ton. So, the design of this rocket is mainly based on the demands of the commercial space market.”
Researchers said they are currently working on launching a larger model by the end of the year, the Kuaizhou-2, which will have a carrying capacity of about one metric ton, which is 1000 kilograms.
Apart from cutting the cost of getting into space, Chinese rocket scientists are also conducting research on reusable rockets.
Research into such technology, including parachute- and propulsion-landing, is already well advanced in terms of tests and verification, with breakthroughs made in some key areas.
Wang Guoqing, deputy director of the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, is optimistic about the future of rocket reuse.
“We carried out some experiments of our own on recycling technology. Currently the research is still at the early stage, but I’m sure in the near future our own reusable rocket will blast off into the sky,” said Wang.
The latest progress in heavy rocket development and the Long March-8, a new generation low-cost medium-sized launch vehicle, was also outlined at the conference.
Lu Yu, head of the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, said “the heavy rocket is scheduled to be launched between 2028 and 2030. It will be mainly used for deep space exploration, especially the establishment of a lunar base, and manned lunar landings. The Long March-8 adopts our already mature technologies and can greatly reduce research and development costs. It is a launch rocket with relatively low costs. Its earliest possible launch date would be in 2018.”
Also at the conference, Chinese experts announced their intention to open up its space station to scientists worldwide, on completion around 2022, and offer more opportunities for private companies to participate in the country’s lunar and Mars exploration programs.
Special coverage on China's Two Party Sessions by The Daily Mail - People's Daily