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    A Long March 5 carrier rocket is transferred to a launching area in Wenchang, Hainan Province, China, October 28, 2016

    Chinese Rockets: Beijing's Space Program Soars Into the Air in 2016

    © REUTERS / China Daily
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    In 2016, the Chinese government launched a whole array of major space-related projects which proved to be successful, Russian military expert Vasily Kashin told Sputnik China.

    In 2016, China started tests of its first heavy-lift Long March-5 rocket. The successful completion of the launch vehicle will pave the way for the construction of a Chinese space station, Kashin told Sputnik China. He also cited tests of the country's solid-propellant rockets.

    Earlier this year, China was the first to launch a quantum communication satellite into orbit, as well as a satellite for conducting EmDrive engine tests, according to Kashin.

    2016 also saw a manned mission on board the Chinese orbital module Tiangong-2, where a cold atom interferometer was installed for possible scientific purposes, including those related to detecting submarines.

    This year, China ranked second after Russia in terms of its number of successful space launches, while the number of Chinese satellites in orbit outstripped Russia in 2014. Since then, it has been strengthening its positon, Kashin said.

     A model of the Chinese orbital module Tiangong-2
    © Wikipedia /
    A model of the Chinese orbital module Tiangong-2

    In 2016, it was confirmed that China had created its first experimental missile early warning satellite, according to him.

    "These satellites are equipped with sensitive infrared sensors to register the missile launches. Presumably, the satellite was launched in late 2015," Kashin said.

    He also cited China's efforts to put new types of reconnaissance satellites into orbit and test new anti-satellite weapons and the regular testing of such systems. According to the US, statements are expected in the near future.

    A Chinese moon rover
    © Photo : China Ministry of Defense
    A Chinese moon rover

    "So it's safe to say that 2016 proved to be a successful year for the Chinese space industry, which will  be developed further, in 2017," Kashin pointed out.

    Next year may see the launch of a lunar mission of the Chinese automatic station Chang'e-5 and the first automatic cargo ship Tianzhou, as well as the continuation of construction of the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System and the expansion of the network of Chinese reconnaissance satellites, he said.

    "The Chinese space program gradually comes to the fore in the world. China's shift to new generations of rockets will help reduce the use of a toxic rocket fuel called heptyl. It should be noted in this context that the second stage of the Long March-5 rocket uses an innovative and environmentally friendly hydrogen fuel, Kashin said.

    In order to be considered a superpower, it's necessary for China to develop an innovative economy and the growing military and political rivalry with the United States will add to the rapid development of China's space program, even in the face of stalled economic growth, he said.

    Russia, for its part, should expand bilateral space cooperation with China in order to give an additional impetus to its own space industry.

    In this vein, Moscow should benefit from the production technology of powerful engines for liquid-propellant missiles, and vast experience in the design of various space vehicles, Kashin concluded.

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