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Satellite launches add appeal to tropical Hainan

By Ma Zhiping | China Daily | Updated: 2022-05-05 10:31

[Photo provided to China Daily]

Customers willing to pay much higher prices than usual can enjoy front row seats to liftoffs from hotels, Ma Zhiping reports.

The record-setting launch of 22 commercial satellites using a single Chinese rocket at Wenchang Space Launch Center in late February has ignited passion among space fans and added new appeal to Hainan, an island province popular for its tropical features-year-round sunshine, sprawling beaches, rainforests and enthralling boat tours.

"Space launches have promoted tourism in Wenchang as many tourists make space launch watching an attraction that should not be missed on their island travel schedule. Nearly all hotel rooms are reserved one month ahead of every launch here and visitors-space launch amateurs, researchers, photographers and families-usually occupy 90 percent of our hotel rooms five days ahead of each launch," said Wang Keyan, a manager of an international brand hotel in Qishui Bay, which is surrounded by graceful coconut trees three kilometers from the launch site.

Customers willing to pay much higher prices than usual can enjoy front row seats to launches in some of the hotel rooms that charmingly combine the natural beauty of tropical island landscapes with a show of modern aerospace technology.

Outside and bathed in sea breezes on beautiful beaches like those at Qishui Bay and Moon Bay, people can enjoy spectacular views of every breathtaking launch from the country's fourth launch site, also its first coastal space launch center, which is only 800 meters away from the waters of the vast South China Sea.

"Aerospace fans began to call us or send WeChat messages immediately after the launch in February, reserving rooms for the next launch, though the exact launch time has not been revealed to the public yet," said Zhu Ying, who runs a seaside homestay with her husband in Longlou town, home of Wenchang Space Launch Center.

The couple used to work in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, but arrived in Wenchang to rent a farmer's home to serve as a homestay five years ago, when they keenly anticipated the growing needs of space launch fans.

The number of car rental reservations in Wenchang and nearby cities such as Haikou, Qionghai and Wanning jumped by more than 10 times year-on-year during the February launch period, according to a report from a local transportation services platform.

Seated in northeastern Hainan island, about 19 degrees north of the equator, the Wenchang space center has been designed for launching geosynchronous satellites, heavy-lift carrier rockets, large space station components and lunar and interplanetary missions.

It is the only launch facility in China capable of launching Long March 5 series rockets, the biggest and most powerful in the country's rocket fleet. The facility thus enjoys a significant role in the country's deep-space exploration endeavors.

Low latitude is the biggest advantage of the Wenchang facility. It enables rockets to save considerable fuel and to carry heavier payloads, and thus ensures a higher launch efficiency, said experts.

The center has become a symbol of China's aerospace industry advances, with remarkable and comprehensive benefits gained from 16 national launch missions including the launch of Tiangong space station's core module, cargo spacecraft Tianzhou, the Chang'e 5 lunar probe and Tianwen 1 Mars explorer.

Construction work started in September 2009 and was completed in October 2014. The maiden launch at the facility took place in June 2016 with the debut of the Long March 7 rocket, witnessed by 150,000 visitors on site, according to local reports.

The local government has opened eight seaside areas to ensure visitors are provided with an immersive feeling when viewing spectacular launches.

"On-site viewing of the tremendous roar and powerful thrust of the rockets is a stunning and moving experience that is totally different from a TV broadcast. It is a precious opportunity for live viewings of the courage and wisdom to explore space by Chinese scientists," said Wang Hong from neighboring Guangdong province, a mother who, together with her son, watched the liftoff of a modified Long March 8 carrier rocket.

China currently has four space launch bases, namely, Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the deserts of Northwest China's Gansu province, the nation's only manned spacecraft launch center; Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in North China's Shanxi province, capable of launching satellites into both medium and low orbits; Xichang Satellite Launch Center, mainly to launch powerful-thrust rockets and geostationary satellites in Southwest China's Sichuan province, and the Wenchang Space Launch Center in Hainan, the country's youngest and southernmost launch site.

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