China’s Space Programme: Current Projects

Shenzhou docking


China’s first crewed spacecraft, developed for the human spaceflight programme to fulfil the missions of achieving crewed orbital flight, developing EVA and rendezvous docking techniques, and transporting crews to and from the space station. The spacecraft was modelled after the Russian Soyuz-TM but slightly larger in size and has been developed from Chinese technology. First unmanned test flight took place in 1999 and the first manned mission in 2003. The Shenzhou spacecraft is expected to remain in service into the 2020s as the crew transportation vehicle for China’s manned space station.

Tiangong 2

The second man-tended space laboratory, designed to demonstrate medium-term orbital living and in-orbit inrefuelling of propellants, and to carry out large-scale space science and applications experiments.



Automated cargo resupply vehicle, derived from the Tiangong 1 space laboratory. Capable of in-orbit cargo resupply and refuelling of propellants.d


Astronaut Selection and Training

Although China’s first astronaut only flew on orbit in 2003, relevant research on space medicine including biology sounding rocket launches began as early as the 1960s. Following the launch of the manned space programme (Project 921) in 1992, a total of 21 astronaut candidates in two groups have been selected to receive training for spaceflight missions. Among them, ten people have flown in space so far. China is planning to train more astronauts including doctors and engineers to work on its future space station.


Lunar Exploration Programme

China’s robotic lunar probing missions, including orbiters, landers, and lunar sample return.


Long March 5

China’s new-generation heavy-lift orbital launcher, designed to loft space station modules, deep space probes, and heavy communications satellites into orbit.


Long March 6

Liquid-fuelled, small-lift launch vehicle part of China’s next generation orbital launcher family, developed based on the same common rocket engines that use environmentally friendly kerosene and cryogenic propellants. The Long March 6 has been positioned as a small-load orbital launcher for small- and micro-satellites of under 1,000 kg mass, which puts the CZ-6 in the same class as the European Space Agency Vega and the Russian Angara-1.


Long March 7

Medium-lift member of China’s next generation launch vehicles that have been developed based on several common rocket engines using environmentally friendly kerosene and cryogenic propellants. First flying in June 2016, the Long March 7 is expected to become China’s workhorse launcher, delivering spacecraft vehicles and satellites into Earth orbit.


Wenchang Space Centre

China’s newest spaceport, the Wenchang Space Centre witnessed its inaugural mission on 25 June 2016, with the successful launch of a Long March 7 rocket from Launch Complex 201. With two brand new launch complexes and support facilities, Wenchang will become China’s portal to space in the 21st century, supporting the country’s ambitious space projects including a permanent space station and deep space missions to the Moon and Mars.

%d bloggers like this: