China Announces Ambitious Space Program for 2022

China to launch record number of spacecraft this year . . . 

Last week, China’s state-owned Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) released its annual Blue Paper on China’s Space Science and Technology Activities, detailing its plans for the current year. Among the activities scheduled are more than 50 space missions, including 140 spacecraft launches. China also plans to conduct six crewed missions to finish the construction of its Tiangong space station. It will also simultaneously conduct two separate missions with two different crews of three astronauts each to work on Tiangong.

China unveils space White Paper . . .

On January 28, two weeks before the release of CASC’s annual plan, the China National Space Administration released its quinquennial White Paper on space, outlining the country’s plans and priorities for the next five years. The document states that between now and 2027, China will launch two more return missions to the moon’s south pole and continue research and development on key technologies for a future crewed mission to the lunar surface, albeit without committing to a specific timeframe for the latter. China will also continue to plan missions to Mars and eventually Jupiter. The White Paper also highlights the importance of space for China’s overall national strategy. It details China’s view of space as being essential for economic development and the digitalization of the country, which will increasingly rely on satellites for communication and transportation.

Opportunities for collaboration?

China’s White Paper also highlights its ambition to play an active role in shaping international rules governing outer space. Some have seen this as an indication of China’s willingness to collaborate internationally. Given the world’s reliance on satellites, the increase in space debris poses a growing challenge globally. But collaboration between the U.S. and China on space is impeded by bilateral tensions. As opposed to collaboration, competition in space will prevent its sustainable use and be detrimental to humanity. As is the case for so many other global challenges, space is an issue that requires truly global solutions.