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China ramps up space ambitions with record launch schedule

By ZHAO LEI | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2024-02-26 15:12

A Long March-5 Y7 carrier rocket carrying a communication technology experiment satellite blasts off from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in South China's Hainan province, Feb 23, 2024. [Photo/Xinhua]

China has ambitious plans for its space industry in 2024, with approximately 100 launch missions scheduled, according to the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp (CASC), a State-owned conglomerate and the nation's leading space contractor. The announcement of this record-high number of launch plans was made during a news conference in Beijing on Monday.

CASC will be responsible for nearly 70 of the planned missions, deploying over 290 spacecraft into orbit, said Ma Tao, deputy head of the company's space program planning department. Notable spaceflights for the year include two crewed journeys and two cargo missions to the Tiangong space station, the Chang'e 6 robotic expedition to the moon's far side, and the maiden flight of the Long March 6C and Long March 12 carrier rockets.

Experts highlight that the most significant mission in 2024 will be Chang'e 6, tasked with bringing back the first-ever samples from the little-known far side of the moon.

The majority of planned launches will be conducted by CASC's Long March rocket family, with additional launches by the company's secondary rocket series named Smart Dragon, China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp's Kuaizhou fleet, and several models from private companies.

Ma emphasized that the company will also continue its efforts in the research, development, and construction of over 200 spacecraft to be launched in the coming years. These include the new-generation crew spaceship, the Chang'e 7 lunar probe, the Tianwen 2 asteroid explorer, and several advanced satellites.

In 2023, China was the second-ranking country in terms of launch numbers, having carried out 67 rocket launches, with 47 conducted by the Long March rocket family, all of which were successful.

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