Credit: China National Space Administration (CNSA)/China Media Group(CMG)/China Central Television (CCTV)/Inside Outer Space screengrab

China has issued a sweeping and lengthy white paper that outlines the next five years of planned space activities.

The State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China published “China’s Space Program: A 2021 Perspective” on Friday.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Among highlights in the paper:

China will continue to improve the capacity and performance of its space transport system, and move faster to upgrade launch vehicles. It will further expand the launch vehicle family, send into space new-generation manned carrier rockets and high-thrust solid-fuel carrier rockets, and speed up the R&D of heavy-lift launch vehicles.

China’s space station expected to be completed around 2022.
CMS/Inside Outer Space screengrab

It will continue to strengthen research into key technologies for reusable space transport systems, and conduct test flights accordingly. In response to the growing need for regular launches, China will develop new rocket engines, combined cycle propulsion, and upper stage technologies to improve its capacity to enter and return from space, and make space entry and exit more efficient.

Human spaceflight

  • China will continue to implement its human spaceflight project. It plans to: launch the Wentian and Mengtian experimental modules, the Xuntian space telescope, the Shenzhou piloted spacecraft, and the Tianzhou cargo spacecraft.
  • Complete China’s space station and continue operations, build a space laboratory on board, and have astronauts on long-term assignments performing large-scale scientific experiments and maintenance.
  • Continue studies and research on the plan for a human lunar landing, develop new-generation manned spacecraft, and research key technologies to lay a foundation for exploring and developing cislunar space.

Photo taking during Chang’e-5 surface sampling.
Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Lunar and planetary exploration

In the next five years, China will continue with lunar and planetary exploration. It will:

  • Launch the Chang’e-6 lunar probe to collect and bring back samples from the polar regions of the Moon.
  • Launch the Chang’e-7 lunar probe to perform a precise landing in the Moon’s polar regions and a hopping detection in lunar shadowed area.
  • Complete R&D on the key technology of Chang’e-8, and work with other countries, international organizations and partners to build an international research station on the Moon.
  • Launch asteroid probes to sample near-earth asteroids and probe main-belt comets.
  • Complete key technological research on Mars sampling and return, exploration of the Jupiter system.
  • Study plans for boundary exploration of the solar system.

Artist’s view of China/Russia International Lunar Research Station to be completed by 2035. Credit: CNSA/Roscosmos

Lunar research station

The white paper also notes that China launched the international lunar research station project together with Russia, and initiated the Sino-Russian Joint Data Center for Lunar and Deep-space Exploration. It is working with Russia to coordinate Chang’e-7’s lunar polar exploration mission with Russia’s LUNA-Resource-1 orbiter mission.

Wu Yanhua, Deputy Director of the China National Space Administration
Credit: CNSA/CMG)/CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Additionally, China will advance cooperation on the international lunar research station project. It welcomes international partners to participate in the research and construction of the station at any stage and level of the mission.

To read the full document (in English) — China’s Space Program: A 2021 Perspective — go to:

Go to this video detailing the document that includes music: “The New Order” by Aaron Kenny, along with Star Wars-like scroll of words!

Go to:

Credit: CNSA/CMG)/CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab 

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