[Satellite TODAY Insider 03-14-12] China is planning to launch about 20 rockets each year before 2015 as part of the nation’s “100 rockets, 100 satellites” space program, China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. (CASC) Deputy General Manager Zhang Jianheng confirmed March 13.
China started its space expansion program last year, launching 19 satellites on 19 Long March rockets in 2011 — a record for the country. China even surpassed the United States’ launch output of 18 missions in 2011 and became the world’s second most active launch program following Russia’s 36 launches last year.
Jianheng said China plans to launch 30 satellites on 21 rockets, including the launch of Shenzhou-9 spacecraft, by the end of 2012. Shenzhou-9 is scheduled to carry out China’s first manned space rendezvous and docking with the Tiangong-1 spacecraft this summer.
“The densely arranged launch missions and flight tests have posed an unprecedented challenge to the country’s space program,” Jianheng said. “CASC raked in 100 billion yuan ($15.87 billion) in operating income in 2011, bringing our total assets to more than 200 billion yuan ($31.6 billion). CASC will maintain a growth rate of about 20 percent annually, as our operating income is expected to hit 250 billion yuan ($39.6 billion) by the year 2015.”
In 2011, China conducted its first space docking experiment to build a space station of its own by 2020. China’s 2012 space missions include the launch of its third lunar probe, Chang’e-3, as well as a moon landing mission and several lunar exploration missions. The 100-kilogram Chang’e-3 orbiter carries a lunar rover and other instruments for territory surveys and space observations.
China also has a new Long March 7 medium-heavy space launcher scheduled to debut in late 2013. The rocket is significantly larger than current Chinese rockets with four boosters. Long March 7 will enter service with the capability of lifting 13.5 metric tons (30,000 pounds) to low Earth orbit.