Andrey Kisliakov, scientific reviewer — specially for InfoSCO
Russia and China determine their relationship as strategic partnership. And these are not just big words. They are also confirmed by concurrence of opinions of key foreign policy issues, as well as by economic, scientific and cultural cooperation day by day strengthening. This strategic partnership has also formed in the field of space exploration.
People’s Republic of China has recently overcome a symbolic boundary in astronautics: number of its carrier rockets launches for the purpose of placing into orbit various payloads exceeded 100. The pace would seem slow: it took over 36 years, but it should be noted that half of all the launches was made within the last decade.
During this time China has created and deployed several space communication, investigation and navigation systems, placed into orbit meteorological satellites and a series of experimental and research space vehicles. Now it may surpass any space-faring nation in useful output per launch. Not to mention that China became the third country in the world after the USSR and the USA to launch a man into space.
Of course, it failed too, and little wonder, insofar as space-system engineering is concerned. Nine launches of 105 were conducive to accident; every fourth vehicle was delivered to non-nominal orbits. And yet 115 space vehicles were launched into orbits. By commercial orders there were 20 launches, and seven of them were accompanied by Asiasat and Apstar system vehicles, practically controlled by China. Another six Chinese satellites were “thrown” into orbit by foreign carrier rockets - mainly Russian ones.
It is no secret that the Chinese space programme has Russian roots. In due time Soviet specialists helped China to found its own space industry, prepare necessary scientific base and personnel. Particularly, the main Chinese Great march carrier rocket in effect is a modernized Soviet ballistic missile UR-200 developed by academician Vladimir Chelomei.
Today in China the whole fleet of new carriers is being developed, more powerful and flexible in use. They represent a set of integrated elements, similar to bricks, which will allow to build a rocket practically of any load class – from heavy to light. By the way, the Russian Angara family carrier rockets are built on the same principle.
Chinese liquid-fuel rocket engines are generally based on the Russian principles of their construction. However, rocket engine-building achievements often result from individual works of China’s scientists and specialists, many of whom graduated from Soviet institutions.
Legal base of Russia’s space technologies sale to China became an intergovernmental agreement of April 25, 1996. Since it was secret, Russian enterprises managers, making no concealment of the fact of work in progress jointly with China, refuse to detail anything. Though it is known, for example, that China has purchased from the Russian “Energy” rocket-space corporation a model of Soyuz ship’s descent module and equipment of automatic rendezvous and docking.
Long-term Chinese space programme is clearly stage-structured, not urgent and oriented to simple and possibly reliable technologies. Thus towards 2010 it is expected to establish a space laboratory, and towards 2015 a full-fledged orbital station should be constructed. In 2011 along with an automatic lunar vehicle launching to the Moon, a full-scale surface investigation will start from the artificial lunar satellite. In 2016 a circumlunar manned mission is planned, in 2020 – astronauts landing to the lunar surface, in 2030 – formation of inhabited Chinese scientific base on the Moon. And finally, a Martian manned mission: first flyby trajectory one, and then astronauts landing to the planet’s surface.
At present Russian and Chinese parties are actively examining possibilities of joint development and implementation of large projects, corresponding to mutual interests and tasks of both countries’ space programmes. 2007-2009 cooperation programme is being successfully implemented which was a follow-up of the previous three-year programme and includes 33 cooperation areas.
Here are some of them. Lunar programme provides for the Luna-Glob project joint works. The Fobos-Grunt Russian space vehicle’s flight scheduled for this year will permit to find out origin of primary planets. Project goal is to deliver to Earth soil sample from the martian satellite - Fobos. In so doing the Russian Zenit carrier rocket will launch into the martian orbit not only the Russian Fobos-Grunt, but also the Chinese Younguo-1.
The Chinese pure research satellite will work according to its individual programme for a year. Its main task consists of circummartian space exploration. Having examined the Younguo-1's data, China hopes to understand, how water disappeared from the martian surface.