Wenchang launch center construction to be completed by June
Updated: 2014-02-14 07:00
By Wang Qian and Huang Yiming in Haikou (China Daily USA)
China's new satellite launch center is set to countdown for its first launch in late 2014 or early 2015, with construction completed before June, a senior official said.
Once operational, the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center in Hainan province, the fourth in China, will launch new-generation carrier rockets and space station modules.
"Construction work will be finished before June and launch rehearsals will be carried out later this year," Pei Chengmin, Party chief of Wenchang, told China Daily during a session of the provincial people's congress on Sunday.
Pei estimated about 2 billion yuan ($329 million) would be invested in the infrastructure.
A report released by the Hainan Development and Reform Commission last year said 2.5 billion yuan will be used for the center's construction.
Covering about 20 square kilometers, the center includes a rocket assembly plant, a command center and facilities such as a space research center, as well as a theme park.
Sun Baowei, director of the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan province, told China Daily in an earlier interview that at about 19 degrees north of the equator, the location of the new launch center in Hainan is suitable for launching geosynchronous and heavy satellites, large space station components and lunar and interplanetary missions.
Geosynchronous satellites are those that have an orbital period that mirrors the Earth's rotation.
"A satellite launched from Wenchang will be able to extend its service life by three years as a result of the fuel saved from the shorter maneuver from the transit orbit to the geosynchronous orbit," Long Lehao, a carrier rocket expert with the Chinese Academy of Engineering, told Xinhua News Agency.
As the new launch center faces the sea to its south and east, large rockets can be easily shipped to the center and launch debris will plunge into the water, Long added.
Sun said the center's location makes it ideal for China's next-generation launch vehicles - the Long March 5 and Long March 7.
The Long March 5 rocket will be mainly used for China's manned space station components and has the capacity to carry a 20-metric-ton payload to near-Earth orbit, according to the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. It will also be used in the country's moon exploration program.
Liang Xiaohong, deputy director of the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, told Beijing Morning Post that the Long March 5 carrier rocket is expected to blast off from the new center.
The most widely used satellite launch center is in Jiuquan, Gansu province. The other two centers are in Taiyuan, Shanxi province, and Xichang, Sichuan province.
The three centers are all located in remote regions, far from population centers, but the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center will be close to residential areas, which local authorities expect will play an important role in boosting the local economy.
Pei said the center will also boost tourism in Wenchang, especially with the theme park. He estimated that in the month of the first launch mission, the center could attract 300,000 tourists to the city.
The theme park will offer visitors a tour of the launch pads as well as other attractions, such as a moon-themed train ride and "cosmos" roller coaster. The park's interplanetary section will be divided into four themed areas - Earth, Moon, Sun and Mars.
In order to accommodate surging tourist numbers, 28 hotels in Wenchang are under construction with three five-star hotels set to open within the year.
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(China Daily USA 02/14/2014 page5)