Work completed on satellite launch center in Hainan

Updated: 2014-10-18 04:55

By SUN LI(China Daily)

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Construction of the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center in Hainan province, China’s fourth and most advanced space launch center, has been completed and it will soon become operational, People’s Daily reported on Friday.

The center is designed to handle next-generation rockets and space station modules. Building work began in 2009.

Situated on the northeast coast of Hainan, about 60 km from Haikou, the provincial capital, the center is the country’s first coastal satellite launch base.

The location, about 19 degrees north of the equator, is suitable for launching geosynchronous satellites, heavy satellites, large space station components and lunar and interplanetary missions. Geosynchronous satellites orbit in a fixed position above Earth.

To date, the nation’s most widely used space facility is the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert. The other two centers are in Taiyuan, Shanxi province, and in Xichang, Sichuan province.

Pang Zhihao, a senior researcher at the China Academy of Space Technology, said the location of the Wenchang center suggests it will have an unparalleled advantage compared with the other three centers.

“A satellite launched from Wenchang is supposed to enable a fuel consumption saving of about 15 percent in rockets compared with launches from the Xichang center. This is because its latitude makes for a shorter time from transitory orbit to geosynchronous orbit,” Pang said, adding that this can prolong the service life of a satellite.

Pang said the location also means that rockets’ payloads can be increased, allowing them to carry heavier satellites. As the new center faces the sea to the south and east, there is also no danger of debris from launch vehicles falling into residential areas.

Pang said the new center will enhance the nation’s deep-space exploration capability, as it is an ideal site for the launch of the Long March 5 rocket, China’s most powerful, which is being developed.

The Long March 5 can be transported to the center by sea, while the other launch centers are in inland areas, requiring transportation by rail.

Qi Faren, former chief designer of the Shenzhou spaceships, has said the Long March 5 will be launched from the new center in 2015.

Ye Peijian, chief designer of the lunar probe for China’s Chang’e Project, said Chang’e 5, the nation’s fifth lunar probe, will be launched at the center in 2017. It is expected to send a lunar rock sample back to Earth.

The People’s Liberation Army General Armaments Department, which is responsible for the launch center project, was not available for comment.

An unnamed Wenchang government official said he is not in a position to confirm completion of work on the center.

But he said it may increase tourism in Wenchang, the country’s fourth “space city”, as the launch center’s facilities include a space theme park where visitors will be given tram tours of the launch pads.

Liu Xiaoli in Haikou contributed to this story