The People's Republic of China (PRC) unveiled an ambitious plan for the development of aerospace activities over the next five years. The plan has been announced, even as China's first lunar orbiter is being readied for launch next week.
The plan, released by the Commission of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence (COSTIND) for the 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-10), outlines nine major missions for aerospace development to be fulfilled by 2010. These are:
- To enhance the capabilities of scientific research on space products, and shorten the current research cycle.
- To implement key scientific and technological projects, including manned flight, the Moon probe, the high resolution Earth-observation system, the Compass Navigation Satellite System, and the new generation of carrier rockets.
- To improve innovation capabilities, and overcome key technical difficulties such as satellite payloads and deep-space exploration.
- To fasten the development of space technology, expand the application of satellites, and kick off research projects to make space products more accountable and longer lasting.
- To optimize the structure of the space industry, form a complete industrial chain from satellite manufacturing to projection and application, and promote satellite exports.
- To continue research on space science and establish the space environment monitoring and forecasting system.
- To strengthen industrial management and create a good environment for space development.
- To strengthen education and foster talent.
- To strengthen international exchanges and cooperation.
The release of the blueprint coincides not only with the ongoing 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), but also comes just a few days ahead of the launch of the Moon orbiter, Chang'e I.
Earlier reports said the launch at Xichang Satellite Launching Centre had been set for next Wednesday evening. But COSTIND said yesterday that it would hold a press conference on Monday to announce the final launch time.
According to Xinhua, Zhang Qingwei, minister in charge of COSTIND, said that his team had nearly finished pre-launch tests on the rocket and the orbiter, which have been transported to the launch site.
The orbiter will carry advanced cameras and X-ray spectrometers for mapping three-dimensional images of the lunar surface, analyzing dust on the Moon and studying the space environment between the Earth and the Moon, Qingwei said.
The orbiter will travel through space for about eight days before entering lunar orbit.