Saturday, June 17, 2017

China successfully launches x-ray satellite 慧眼 using Long March 4B



China's first astronomical satellite,  慧眼, "insight" or "smart eye", an x-ray telescope that will search the sky for black holes, neutron stars, was placed into orbit today after an early morning launch from the Inner Mongolia Desert.

The 2.8-ton Hard X-ray Modulation Telescope (HXMT), dubbed Insight according to  Xinhua news agency, was carried aloft by a Long March-4B medium lift rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center 酒泉衛星發射中心. The newest of several x-ray telescope in space, the HXMT will observe some of the most turbulent processes in the universe. The x-rays generated by those events cannot penetrate Earth's atmosphere; they can only be observed by high-altitude balloons or satellites. The HXMT carries three x-ray telescopes observing at energy ranging from 20 to 200 kilo-electron volts as well as an instrument to inspect the space environment, according to its designers. While orbiting 600 kilometers above the planet, the HXMT will perform a sky survey that is expected to discover many new x-ray sources. Over an expected operating lifetime of 4 years, it will also conduct focused observations of black holes, neutron stars, and gamma ray bursts.

This great achievement by China's space science program "is certainly welcomed" by the world community, says Andrew Fabian, a theoretical astrophysicist at the University of Cambridge in England. "It is very meaningful that they have launched their first astronomical satellite and this will pave the way for others,” he says. Fabian believes that the HXMT sky survey will prove particularly valuable for catching transient x-ray sources that emerge, flare up to tremendous brightness, and then just as quickly fade away. As yet, the processes behind x-ray transients are poorly understood. Other missions are also trying to catch transients in the act. But "any satellite looking at that phenomena is going to find interesting things and do good science," Fabian says.

The "Insight" is the last of the cluster of four space science missions covered under China 12th 5-year plan that were developed by the National Space Science Center (NSSC) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing-the other three are a dark matter probe, a collection of microgravity experiments, and a test of long-range quantum entanglement. Funding constraints meant all four had to be developed simultaneously, and all four were launched over the course of 18 months. " This is not a sustainable way to have a science program," NSSC Director  told Science in a 2016 interview.

Monday, May 29, 2017

China's planned far side of Moon sample mission




A view of the far side of the Moon and the distant Earth, captured by the 2014 Change 5-T1 mission.

China is progressing with plans to launch an unprecedented attempt to collect samples from the far side of the Moon in 2020, as well as future polar missions, following a meeting of top lunar scientists and space officials in Beijing.

The ambitious and complex Chang'e-6 mission is part of wider plans outlined for the exploration of the Moon which will follow on from the original three-stage Chinese Lunar Exploration Project (中国探月工程).

Chang'e-6 would follow the first ever landing on the far side of the Moon by the Chang'e-4 lander and rover mission, scheduled for late 2018, and would likely also target the scientifically significant South Pole-Aitken Basin.

Probes to both lunar poles are also being developed for the decade of 2020, which tentatively involve surface exploration, resource development and related technology validation.

"The exploration of lunar poles is a significant innovation in human history, which has drawn great attention from around the world. It will also lay a solid foundation for deeper and more accurate Moon probes in the future," Tian Yulong, chief engineer at SASTIND, said in October.

Such missions will also be of interest to the European Space Agency (ESA), which has been discussing cooperation in and coordination of lunar exploration plans with China as part of ESA's 'Moon Village' concept.

In March, Mr Wu told Xinhua agency that Chang'e-6 would target a 2020 launch, but that the mission had not yet been officially approved.

Such a declaration could only realistically come after success of China's first, near-side lunar sample return mission, Chang'e-5, which will launch on a Long March 5 heavy lift rocket from Wenchang in November.

CLEP has so far involved two orbiters, Chang'e-1 and 2, and a lander and rover mission, Chang'e-3 in 2013, and will culminate in the Chang'e-5 lunar sample return mission.

The four-part probe involves orbiting, landing, collecting samples, ascending to lunar orbit, rendezvous and docking in orbit, high-speed return to Earth and a skip reentry into the atmosphere.

The mission, the first of its kind since Soviet's Luna 24 in 1976, could return by far the youngest samples of lunar material so far, and will also prove useful experience for human landings in the future.

If the complex Chang'e-5 mission succeeds in bringing 2 kg of lunar samples back to Earth, Chang'e-6 - the designated backup spacecraft - will then be tasked with the scientific and exploration first of retrieving material from the far side of the Moon.

The far side of the Moon is not visible to Earth due to 'tidal locking', meaning tracking and communicating with the probe directly is not possible.

Thus facilitating a landing on the lunar far side will be a communications relay satellite, stationed in a halo orbit around the second Earth-Moon Lagrange Point beyond the Moon.

This will be launched around six months before the launch of Chang'e-4, which itself is a re-purposed backup to the successful Chang'e-3 mission which involved the Yutu, or Jade Rabbit, rover.


SASTIND, which oversees the Chinese space programme, last autumn stated that it is developing a 20 year strategy for lunar and interplanetary exploration, including the above plans, missions to Mars and potential human landings on the Moon.

While such a goal has been often stated in the media, there is mounting evidence that China is working on the capabilities required for putting astronauts on the lunar surface and getting them home.

In June 2016 as part of the debut flight of the Long March 7 rocket, a scale version of a return capsule for crewed deep space missions was successfully tested.

China is working on two variants of a successor to the crewed Shenzhou spacecraft, with masses of 14 and 20 metric tonnes and capable of accommodating 4-6 astronauts.

And early research into a launch vehicle powerful enough to send the required mass toward to Moon, the Saturn V-class (and Russian failed N1 class) Long March 9 rocket, is already underway.

Long March 9. Long March 9 (LM-9, CZ-9, or Changzheng 9, Chinese: 长征九号) is a Chinese super-heavy carrier rocket that is currently in study. It is planned for a maximum payload capacity of at least 140,000 kg to LEO or at least 50,000 kg to Lunar Transfer Orbit.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

China to Launch Recoverable Moon Orbiter Prototype

China's space program has set its sights on an ambitious feat of lunar exploration: robotically landing a probe on the moon and returning samples of the lunar surface back to Earth.

To accomplish that, the country plans to launch a lunar "test orbiter" by year's end with the intention of laying the foundation for China's Chang'e 5 lunar sample-return mission in 2017.

The experimental recoverable moon orbiter has arrived at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in the southern province of Sichuan for its planned launch. The mission represents China's first attempt at returning a lunar probe to Earth, as noted in an Aug. 10 statement by China's State Administration of Science, Technology, and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND).

 China is preparing for the launch of an experimental recoverable moon orbiter, said the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence on Sunday.

The orbiter arrived in Xichang via air in southwest China's Sichuan Province on Sunday and then transported to the Xichang Satellite Launch Center, according to a statement from the administration.

The launch will take place before the end of this year, it said.

The plan is for the orbiter to be launched into lunar orbit and return to Earth at an escape velocity of 11.2 km per second.

The orbiter is one of the test models for China's new lunar probe Chang'e-5, which will be tasked with landing on the moon, collecting samples and returning to Earth.

The launch is aimed at testing the technologies that are vital for the success of Chang'e-5, the statement said.

China launched the Chang'e-3 lunar probe with its moon rover, Yutu, in late 2013. Chang'e-3 successfully landed on the moon and Yutu operated well until its control mechanism failed in January.

As the backup probe of Chang'e-3, Chang'e-4 will be adapted to verify technologies for Chang'e-5.

The more sophisticated Chang'e-5 mission, including unmanned sampling and returning, requires technological breakthroughs in moon surface takeoff, sampling encapsulation, rendezvous and docking in lunar orbit, as well as high-speed Earth reentry.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Pakistan to induct Chinese unmanned aerial vehicles

According to a report in the most recent edition of the National Journal, Pakistan has recently unveiled drones that some believe are derived from Chinese drones.

“Already, Pakistan has remote-piloted aircraft,” the report notes. “Islamabad uses surveillance drones to provide the military with a real-time picture of its restive border areas or counter terrorism operations. Pakistan unveiled two new drones in November: Burraq, named after the winged horse from the heavens that transported Islamic prophets, and Shahpar.”

The National Journal report noted that Pakistan had claimed that both drones were domestically built and that neither would be armed. However, the report also points out, citing defense analysts, that the drones bear a close resemblance to the Chinese-made Rainbow CH-3. The Rainbow CH-3 is able to launch missiles.

Pakistan’s desire to acquire armed drones is no secret. It has urged the U.S. to sell it armed drones for years, which Washington has refused to do. The U.S. keeps a tight lock on the export of its armed drones. According to the National Journal report, only the United Kingdom has been sold U.S. armed drones although certain other close U.S. allies—may soon also fly American drones.

Israel also has armed drones but would be unlikely to export them to Pakistan given U.S. opposition and the fact that Islamabad is a Muslim country that has ties to some of Tel Aviv’s rivals in the Persian Gulf and wider Middle East.

Islamabad’s need for such drones is also urgent. Pakistan’s military would almost certainly use the drones to target inward-focused terrorists operating in Pakistan’s far western region. It has been widely reported that the United States has, at times at least, aided in this effort by using its own drones to eliminate targets at the behest of the Pakistani military.

Having its own armed drones would allow Pakistan to intensify this effort, especially given the strong reluctance on the military’s part to execute a larger counter terrorism operation in the tribal areas where most inward-focused terrorists are believed to be taking refuge. Furthermore, Pakistan could use drones in cross-border operations against Afghanistan where some of the Pakistani terrorists could conceivably find sanctuary in the future should they be driven out of the tribal areas by Pakistan’s military.

It’s also not at all unlikely that China would willingly sell Pakistan armed drones. As The Diplomat has previously noted, China is expected to be by far the fastest growing UAV producer over the next five years. Although most of these drones will be destined for the People’s Liberation Army and other domestic users, Beijing has a clear desire to also use its growing drone market to increase defense exports. In fact, as noted earlier this month, China has already sold Saudi Arabia drones.

Moreover, China’s relationship with Pakistan is far stronger than its ties to Saudi Arabia, or any other country in the Middle East. This is especially true when it comes to arms sales. Indeed, by some estimates, Pakistan purchased some 55 percent of China’s total defense exports between 2008 and 2012. These arm sales most certainly include advanced aircraft. Indeed, one of the largest defense projects between Pakistan and China is their joint development of the JF-17 Thunder fighter jet, which Islamabad hopes to begin exporting as early as this year.

Therefore, although the report remains unconfirmed at this point, it would be surprising if China didn’t sell Pakistan armed drones in the coming years.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Pakistan plans to acquire 6 Type 041 SSK from China



Type 041 SSK is China's first AIP powered submarine, with performance comparable to the German Type 212 submarine.
This submarine is very competitive on the market, less than a half of the German submarine.
More exports likely.

Pakistan is planning to purchase six conventional submarines from China as a way to counter the influence of expanding Indian maritime power, the Military-Industrial Courier, a Russian-language website focused on global defense issues reported on April 3.

Rana Tanveer Hussain, Pakistan's minister of defense production, is currently visiting Beijing to discuss the purchase of submarines from China, according to information released by the Pakistani government. Reports have circulated that Islamabad will sign a contract with Beijing before the end of the year to introduce six Type 041 Yuan-class diesel-electric submarines, to be constructed at either the Wuhan or Jiangnan shipyard.

However, some experts say that the submarines will be S20s, the export version of the Type 041. The only difference between the Type 041 and the S20 is that the latter does not have the former's air-independent propulsion system. If Pakistan chooses to order the air-independent propulsion system separately from China, it can still be easily integrated into the submarine due to the modular design of the S20.

Though China has not specified the types of weapon systems with which the S20 can be equipped, the Global Times published under the auspices of the Communist Party mouthpiece People's Daily stated that a variety of sensors and weapons can also be easily incorporated on request. The Chinese delegation also discussed with Hussain the establishment of a shipyard in Pakistan to be run jointly by the two nations. Karachi Shipyard & Engineering Works may be chosen by Beijing to design submarines due to its previous experience in reproducing Chinese vessels.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

A new version of Yuan class SSK ?




China's sub building is picking up the pace.

New Chinese-sourced imagery shows that the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) continues to modify its Type 041 Yuan class conventional submarine and that it is making progress towards a new large destroyer or cruiser.

On 10 and 11 December 2013 the first images of a new variant of the Type 041 - also sometimes referred to as the Type 039A, Type 039C or Type 039X - appeared on Chinese military web forums. It had just been launched by the Wuhan Shipyard of the China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC), the major manufacturer of China's non-nuclear powered submarines. Only seen partially in these first images, a new image seen on 6 April shows the new Type 041 variant has a raked sail that is similar to recent German SSK designs.

This new sail design may incorporate an additional high-frequency sonar at the base of the sail, as do some other submarines with similar designs. This Type 041 may also be slightly longer than previous variants.

Uncorroborated Chinese sources have suggested that the new variant displaces about 3,500 tons compared to about 3,000 tons for earlier Type 041s. This could indicate that the new variant has more weapons - IHS Jane's Fighting Ships states that the existing variants are armed with YJ-2 (YJ-82) anti-ship missiles and a combination of Yu-4 (SAET-50) passive homing and Yu-3 (SET-65E) active/passive homing torpedoes. Yu-6 wake-homing torpedoes may also be carried.

The basic export version, marketed as the S20 and unveiled in February 2013, displaces about 2,300 tons.

Since 2004 12 Type 041 submarines are believed to have been launched, while the US Department of Defense estimated in its May 2013 annual report on China's military to Congress that production could reach 20 ships.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

J-15 Flying Shark training on China's Carrier Liaoning

The Shenyang J-15 (Chinese: 歼-15), also known as Flying Shark (Chinese: 飞鲨, Fēishā), is a carrier-based fighter aircraft in development by the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation and the 601 Institute for the Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy's aircraft carriers. This aircraft is based on the Russian-designed Sukhoi Su-33 and is fitted with domestically produced radars, engines, and weapons. An unfinished Su-33 prototype, the T-10K-3, was acquired from Ukraine sometime in 2001 and is said to have been studied extensively, with development on the J-15 beginning immediately afterward. While the J-15 appears to be structurally based on the Su-33, the indigenous fighter features Chinese technologies as well as avionics from the J-11B program.

Its performance is estimated to be similar to American F/A-18 C/D Hornet

General characteristics of the aircraft:

Crew: 1-2
Length: 21.9 m (72 ft)
Wingspan: 14.7 m (48.25 ft)
Height: 5.9 m (19.5 ft)
Wing area: 62.04 m2 (667.80 ft2)
Empty weight: 17500 kg (38600 lb)
Loaded weight: 27000 kg (60000 lb)
Max. takeoff weight: 33000 kg (72752 lb)
Powerplant: 2 × WS-10A afterburning turbofans
Dry thrust: 89.17 kN (20,050 lbf) each
Thrust with afterburner: 135 kN (33,000 lbf) each
Wingspan, wings folded: 7.4 m (24.25 ft)
Performance
Maximum speed: Mach 2.4[30]
Range: 3500 km(2050 mi)
Service ceiling: 20000 m (65700 ft)
Rate of climb: 325 m/s (64000 ft/min)
Armament
1 × 30 mm GSh-30-1 cannon with 150 rounds
Munitions on twelve external hardpoints, including:
8 × PL-12 or R-77, and 4 × PL-9 or R-73 air-to-air missiles
Various bombs and rockets
Anti ship and anti radiation missiles.
Electronic countermeasure (ECM) pods