China makes world’s most space launches in 2021

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The combination of the Shenzhou-13 manned spaceship and a Long March-2F carrier rocket is transferred to the launching area of Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China, Oct. 7, 2021. (Photo by Liu Huaiyu/People’s Daily Online)
The combination of the Shenzhou-13 manned spaceship and a Long March-2F carrier rocket is transferred to the launching area of Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China, Oct. 7, 2021. (Photo by Liu Huaiyu/People’s Daily Online)

By Yu Jianbin

China became the country that has carried out the most space launch missions in the world over the past year.

The country’s Long March series carrier rockets, Kuaizhou series carrier rockets, as well as those developed by private space firms have made 55 launches and sent over 100 spacecraft into space.

Among the missions, 48 launches were made by the Long March series carrier rockets, all successful. It was the first time in history that the Long March series completed more than 40 launch missions within a year. The 400th launch of the series also came last year.

The Long March-5B, Long March-2F and Long March-7 completed the missions for China’s space station construction in five launches, carrying the Tianhe core module of the space station, two batches of astronauts, and two cargo spacecraft into space.

The Long March-3A rocket family, also known as the “gold medal rocket” family, completed 12 launches last year, and all of the launches were successful.

In 2021, the in-orbit construction of China’s space station commenced. Two batches of Chinese astronauts entered the space station, and some of them are expected to have a record-setting six-month stay in orbit.

China’s Tianwen-1 Mars probe, launched by the Long March-5 carrier rocket in 2020, landed on the red planet last year, too, and successfully orbited the planet.

On Oct. 14, 2021, China’s first solar observation satellite Xihe entered its planned orbit, which marked that the country has officially entered the era of solar exploration.

China, making high frequency of space launches regularly, still maintains a high success rate.

In 2018, 109 of the 114 space launches recorded in the world were successful, while China scored a 38 for 39 success rate. A year later, a total of 103 launches were made around the world and 95 succeeded. China, in the same year, made success in 31 of its 34 launches.

In 2020, 114 space launches were conducted in the world, and 39 were from China. The 39 launches sent 89 spacecraft into space, making China rank second in the world in terms of both the number of launches and weight of payloads. Last year, China made a record of conducting 55 space launches.

The Long March series is the backbone supporting China’s space launches. It has shouldered 92 percent of China’s launch missions since a Long March rocket placed the Dongfanghong-1 satellite in orbit 51 years ago. In the past half century and more, the series has sent over 700 spacecraft into space, with a success rate of 96 percent.

According to a plan of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, the developer of the Long March series, China will see more than 40 launch missions this year, including six manned space flights that are expected to send two cargo craft, two Shenzhou spaceships and two laboratory modules of China’s space station into space.

This year, China’s space station will be fully completed, and a number of major rockets will also make their maiden flights, including the Long March-6A carrier rocket.

After the space station enters operation stage, the Long March-2F and Long March-7 rockets will both be launched twice a year. Besides, a series of major projects is expected to start in the near future, including the fourth phase of the lunar exploration program, asteroid exploration, Jupiter explorations, manned lunar landing and the first Mars sampling returns.

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