China’s nuclear spaceships will be ‘mining asteroids and flying astronauts to the moon’ as it aims to overtake US in space race


State media publishes Chinese scientists’ ambitious plans to revolutionise space travel and exploration in coming decades

China is on course to develop nuclear-powered space shuttles by 2040, and will have the ability to mine resources from asteroids and build solar power plants in space soon after, according to state media.

The ambitious claims, made by the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology – the country’s leading rocket developer and manufacturer – were published on the front page of People’s Daily on Friday.

According to the report, a new “nuclear fleet” of carrier rockets and reusable hybrid-power carriers will be ready for “regular, large scale” interplanetary flights, and carrying out commercial exploration and exploitation of natural resources by the mid-2040s.

China will catch up with the United States on conventional rocket technology by 2020, it said. In 2025, it is expected to launch a reusable suborbital carrier and start suborbital space tourism.

By 2030, it aims to put astronauts on the moon and have the capabilities to bring samples back from Mars.

In the 2040s, a nuclear-powered fleet will be ready to carry out mining operations on asteroids and planets, the report said.

“By 2045, China will have the best transport system in space,” Li Hong, director of the academy said in an article posted on the organisation’s website on Thursday.

Local scientists said the plan represented China’s most ambitious space programme yet.

“The nuclear vessels are built to colonise the solar system and beyond,” Wang Changhui, associate professor of aerospace propulsion at the School of Astronautics at Beihang University in Beijing, said.

Most spacecraft today use rocket engines that burn chemical fuel for propulsion and get their electricity from solar panels.

But such fuel was quickly depleted, and the Sun’s rays got weaker the further a spaceship went, Wang said.

A nuclear spaceship would have a reactor loaded with radioactive fuel for fission – the splitting of atoms that produces large amounts of energy.

That energy could be used to generate a driving force as well as electricity for the craft’s on-board equipment, he said.

China’s Mars base plan revealed … and covering 95,000 sq km, there’s certainly The technology itself is nothing new. During the cold war, dozens of satellites equipped with various types of nuclear reactors were launched by the former Soviet Union and the United States. Nearly all of them were spy satellites operating at very high altitudes and with huge power demands.

But the nuclear space race was eventually postponed, partly due to its threat to humanity. In 1978, Russian spy satellite Kosmos 954 crashed and sprayed radioactive waste over an area of 124,000 square kilometres in Canada.

More than 30 dead nuclear satellites are still drifting in space and could fall to earth at any time over the next few thousand years.

“Safety issues will be the top challenge for the Chinese nuclear fleet,” Wang said. “If they come down, it will cause a global nuclear disaster.”

According to China’s space authorities, the nuclear shuttles would be docked at a transport hub that would orbit the earth. Reusable spacecraft would be used to transport people and cargo to and from the shuttles.

But even if they were permanently in space, the nuclear-powered vessels were still at risk of being hit by meteorites or even colliding with one another, Wang said.

Regardless of those concerns, a mainland space expert said the targets given in the People’s Daily report would be almost impossible to achieve.

“China does not even have a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to sail the oceans,” the researcher, who requested not to be named, said.

“Building a nuclear space fleet will remain on paper in the foreseeable future. We have not even solved some basic problems with conventional rocket technology yet,” he said.

A Long March 5 heavy-lift rocket, designed for lunar missions and the construction of space stations, veered off course and crashed into the Pacific Ocean in July.

The cause of the accident is still under investigation.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: China plans nuclear space fleet by 2040

Source: SCMP “China’s nuclear spaceships will be ‘mining asteroids and flying astronauts to the moon’ as it aims to overtake US in space race”

Note: This is SCMP’s report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.

Advertisements

China’s Beihang Unmanned Aircraft System Technology unveils TYW-1 strike-capable UAV


China’s Beihang Unmanned Aircraft System Technology unveiled its TYW-1 strike-capable reconnaissance UAV (seen here) on 13 November. Source: Via YOUUAV.com

Richard D Fisher Jr – IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly

15 November 2017

China’s Beihang Unmanned Aircraft System Technology unveiled on 13 November its TYW-1 strike-capable reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and what appeared to be a new version of the BZK-005 multirole medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) UAV at the company’s new factory in the eastern Chinese city of Taizhou.

The TYW-1, which has a wingspan of 18 m, features the same pusher-engine, twin-boom, outward-canted stabiliser design of the BZK-005, the latter of which is believed to be in service with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

The 9.85 m-long and 2.5 m-high TYW-1, however, is reported to have a maximum take-off weight of 1,500 kg compared with the 1,250 kg of the BZK-005.

According to Chinese media reports, the TYW-1 can carry a 370 kg payload, features four underwing pylons, has a ceiling of 7.5 km, an endurance of 40 hours, and can reach a top speed of 200 km/h.

The UAV is also equipped with an electro-optical system that can reportedly read a licence plate 50 km away from an altitude of 5,000 m. It also features both line-of-sight and satellite navigation and control systems.

The company also displayed what appeared to be a new version of the BZK-005 featuring a system mounted under the UAV’s nose that could be electronic support measures (ESM), a radar, or a communication relay.

First revealed in a poster at the Airshow China 2004, the BZK-005 is believed to be in service with units of the People’s Liberation Army Navy Air Force (PLANAF) as well as with a special group subordinate to the Joint Staff Department of the Central Military Commission.

In early April 2016 the BZK-005 was spotted on Woody Island in the South China Sea, and in September 2013 Japan Air Self-Defense Force F-15J aircraft intercepted a BZK-005 flying near the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands.

Beihang Unmanned Aircraft System Technology is an offshoot of the Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics (BUAA), which originally developed the BZK-005 together with the Harbin Aircraft Industry Group.

Source: Jane’s 360 “China’s Beihang Unmanned Aircraft System Technology unveils TYW-1 strike-capable UAV”

Note: This is Jane’s 360’s report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


Report: China’s Advanced Weaponry Threatens U.S. Military


Beijing pursuing ‘leap ahead’ high tech arms strategy

By Bill Gertz

November 17, 2017 5:00 am

China is developing an array of advanced, high technology weapons designed to defeat the United States in a future conflict, according to a congressional commission report.

“China is pursuing a range of advanced weapons with disruptive military potential,” says the annual report of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

The report outlines six types of advanced arms programs that Beijing has made a priority development in seeking “dominance” in the high-tech weapons area. They include maneuverable missile warheads, hypersonic weapons, laser and beam weapons, electromagnetic railguns, counterspace weapons, and artificial intelligence-directed robots.

China revealed two anti-ship ballistic missiles with maneuverable reentry vehicles in 2010 and 2015 and also has set up the sensors and satellites needed for striking moving targets at sea—weapons designed for use against U.S. aircraft carriers and other warships.

Beijing’s hypersonic missiles are in the developmental stage but are “progressing rapidly,” with seven hypersonic glide vehicle tests since 2014 and one reported scramjet engine flight test in 2015.

Directed energy weapons include work on a high-power microwave anti-missile systems this year and high-energy chemical lasers that can blind or damage satellites.

China also is developing electromagnetic rail guns capable of firing projectiles that use kinetic instead of explosive means to destroy targets.

China’s space weapons include direct-ascent antisatellite missiles, ground-based directed energy weapons, and rendezvous and proximity operations for destroying or grabbing satellites.

Artificial-intelligence weapons include robotic, self-thinking cruise missiles, autonomous vehicles, and swarms of drones.

Technology advances supporting the weapons include semiconductors, supercomputing, industrial robotics, and quantum information science.

The threats to the United States from the arms include potential attacks against ships at sea, hypersonic missiles to penetrate missile defenses, targeting U.S. forces with railguns, and space arms that could block U.S. military operations in a future conflict.

China also could use unmanned artificial intelligence weapons in large numbers to saturate U.S. air defenses using swarm technologies.

“Given Beijing’s commitment to its current trajectory, and the lack of fundamental barriers to advanced weapons development beyond time and funding, the United States cannot assume it will have an enduring advantage in developing next frontier military technology,” the report concluded. “In addition, current technological trends render the preservation of any advantage even more difficult.”

Once characterized by decades-long development, China is moving rapidly in the area of specialized weapons in ways designed not for military parity with the United States but military supremacy.

Advanced weapons work today appears aimed at “moving from a phase of ‘catching-up’ to pursuing ‘leap-ahead’ technologies,” the report said.

The advanced arms could produce potential intelligence surprises that pose a threat to the United States and its forward-deployed forces and regional allies.

“China’s achievement of a surprise breakthrough in one of these technologies is possible, due to the secrecy surrounding these programs and the uncertain nature of advanced weapons development in general,” the report said, noting, “such a breakthrough could have significant strategic implications for the United States, particularly in its potential to further existing access challenges and hold forward deployed U.S. forces at risk.”

Three commissioners, in an “additional views” note in the report, warned China’s advanced weapons pose a threat to the Asia Pacific region.

“There are a number of areas where the PLA could make breakthroughs that would be decisive in a conflict with the United States and its regional allies,” said James M. Talent, Michael R. Wessel, and Katherine C. Tobin.

“In short, China is not just an asymmetric threat to the United States, or even a near-peer competitor. It has become, in its region, the dominant military power. That fact, more than any other, explains why China’s aggressions over the last five years have been successful.”

The successes include encroachment in the South China Sea, imposition of an air defense zone in the East China Sea, aggression against Philippines, coercion of Vietnam, increasing pressure on Taiwan, harassment of Japan and other provocations, they stated.

Rick Fisher, a China military expert, said the commission should be commended for examining China’s large investment in advanced military technologies.

“As in most areas of military capability, the United States is in a race with China to develop the technologies and systems that will dominate the future global military balance,” he said.

Overall, the report paints a dire picture of Chinese security and economic developments that portend difficult ties with the United States in the coming years.

For example, the commission faulted “Beijing’s discriminatory treatment of U.S. companies and ongoing failure to uphold its World Trade Organization (WTO) obligations” as damaging U.S.-China relations.

The current U.S. trade deficit with China was $347 billion in 2016 and $238 billion in the first eight months of 2017.

“U.S. companies are feeling increasingly pressured by Chinese policies that demand technology transfers as a price of admission and favor domestic competitors,” the report said.

Internally, high and rising debt levels pose an increasing threat to China’s financial stability. Beijing’s current total debt reached $27.5 trillion by the end of 2016.

China also has sharply increased investment in the United States in a bid to obtain new technologies, including information and communications technology, agriculture, and biotechnology.

The technology transfers pose risks to U.S. economic and national security interests.

On the South China Sea, the report said China has tightened its effective control of the strategic waterway by militarizing artificial islands, and pressuring states in the region to accept its illegal sovereignty claims.

China’s military buildup also is continuing, with new and advanced arms and capabilities, including warships, aircraft and cyber and space weapons.

“The PLA Rocket Force continues to improve both its conventional and nuclear forces to enhance long-range strike and deterrence capabilities and is modernizing its forces to increase the reliability and effectiveness of both conventional and nuclear missile system,” the report said.

The missile modernization is “eroding the United States’ ability to operate freely in the Western Pacific.”

China also is rapidly expanding its state-controlled media influence operations overseas that involves pressuring foreign publications.

For example, China’s influence over Hollywood and the U.S. entertainment industry has increased and Chinese authorities pressured Cambridge University Press into censoring several academic publications.

“The investment activities of large, Chinese Communist Party-linked corporations in the U.S. media industry risk undermining the independence of film studios by forcing them to consider self-censorship in order to gain access to the Chinese market,” the report said.

The report noted that in April, the Chinese government also launched a major international media campaign to discredit a Chinese whistleblower living in the United States.

Among the commissions recommendations are new laws updating the Treasury Department-led Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States to deal with potentially threatening Chinese investment.

For example, the commission recommended blocking Chinese-state owned or state-controlled companies to buy U.S. companies.

To counter Chinese influence operations, the panel recommended requiring Chinese state-run media outlets and entities to register as foreign agents “given that Chinese intelligence gathering and information warfare efforts are known to involve staff of Chinese state-run media organizations,” the report said.

More U.S. military spending is needed to counter the Chinese buildup of weapons, both traditional and advanced.

“As China expands its role on the world stage, it seeks to diminish the role and influence of the United States in Asia and beyond,” the report says. “It is incumbent on U.S. policymakers to advance a coordinated and comprehensive economic, geostrategic, and military strategy that ensures these goals and ambitions do not disrupt U.S. interests at home or abroad.”

Reaction from China was swift. The annual commission report was denounced by Chinese state media on Thursday as “another anti-China report.”

“From China’s perspective, the commission is one of the most hostile U.S. organizations,” the Communist Party-affiliated Global Times states.

Source: Washington Free Beacon “Report: China’s Advanced Weaponry Threatens U.S. Military”

Note: This is Washington Free Beacon’s report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


China adds two more satellites to Beidou-3 to enhance military capabilities


Andrew Tate – IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly 07 November 2017

China launched a Long March 3B rocket from the Xichang space centre in Sichuan Province on 5 November that placed two more Beidou-3 navigation satellites into medium Earth orbit (MEO).

The launch of the satellites had been expected in July, but investigations into the failure of a similar rocket to place a communications satellite in the correct orbit in June led to the four-month delay.

The Beidou programme is being implemented in three phases and more than 30 satellites have been launched since October 2000. Four satellites were placed in orbit during the first phase, Beidou-1, which was largely experimental and was then superseded by Beidou-2, which became operational in 2012. The 12 operational Beidou-2 satellites provide coverage over China and the Asia-Pacific region.

Unlike the US Global Positioning System (GPS), which operates four or more satellites in each of six medium Earth orbital planes, the Beidou system has satellites in geostationary (GEO), inclined geosynchronous (IGSO) and MEOs.

The latest satellites to be launched are elements of the Beidou-3 constellation, which have been placed in MEOs at an altitude of 21,500 km. Up to 18 more Beidou-3 satellites are expected to be launched by the end of 2018, which will extend coverage to all countries involved in China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

The full constellation of 27 MEO, 5 GEO and 3 IGSO satellites is planned for completion by 2020 and is set to provide worldwide coverage.

A report by the state-owned China Daily newspaper states that development of the Beidou-3 system began in 2009 and that five satellites launched in 2015 and 2016 were used to validate the technologies to be used in the upgraded system.

Source: Jane’s 360 military capabilities column “China adds two more satellites to Beidou-3 constellation”

Note: This is Jane’s 360’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.


No one wants to criticize China on the South China Sea anymore


Lucas NiewenhuisNovember 16, 2017

U.S. President Donald Trump used his Twitter megaphone to declare on November 15 that “our great country is respected again in Asia,” and later gave a speech in which he further boasted that America’s “standing in the world has never been stronger than it is right now.” But in at least one major hot-button Asian issue, America’s standing appears to be notably declining, and China’s notably rising: the South China Sea.

  • The New York Times notes (paywall) that though Trump made references to the conflict, saying that “no one owns the ocean” and that “freedom of navigation and overflight are critical,” he “did not single out China for criticism, continuing a pattern of soft-pedaling on a dispute that could annoy United States allies.”
  • The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which in previous years has “noted concerns ‘expressed by some’ leaders” about China’s actions in the South China Sea, this year made no mention of concerns in a statement, the Nikkei Asian Review reports (paywall). This is a “clear diplomatic victory” for China, Nikkei says.
  • Japan, also, seems to be newly reluctant to criticize China’s claims in the South China Sea. The South China Morning Post reported on November 15 that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe “has repeatedly raised the South China Sea issue during his last five years in office – much to Beijing’s irritation – so his silence this week was a marked contrast to the past.”
  • SCMP attributed Abe’s silence to his efforts to further diplomacy on North Korea, but the New York Times says (paywall) that experts suggest that “Mr. Abe appears keenly aware of Mr. Trump’s erratic swings in opinions and loyalties,” and is “naturally wondering if the United States may make some kind of deal with China that could put Japan at a disadvantage.” Trump’s “failing to press China on its military buildup in the South China Sea” has reinforced the perception that China is “taking advantage of an American retreat,” analysts say.

Source: SubChina “No one wants to criticize China on the South China Sea anymore”

Note: This is SubChina’s report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


Zimbabwe — the China connection


The Zimbabwean army took over the country’s state-owned broadcaster on November 15, and announced that President Robert Mugabe and his family are “safe and sound,” but that the apparent coup was “targeting criminals” in Mugabe’s circle.
• Last week, Zimbabwe’s military chief visited Beijing, prompting speculation that he visited to inform the Chinese government of his plans, but Reuters reports that China’s Foreign Ministry said the visit was a “normal military exchange.”
• “The absence of widespread violence associated with the takeover meant the transition would have little impact on Chinese businesses and construction plans in the country,” according to “Chinese observers” quoted in the South China Morning Post.
•The SCMP also has a report on “five ways China is building influence in Zimbabwe.” These include the construction of military, medical, and computing facilities as well as the country’s new parliament building.

Source: SubChina “Zimbabwe — the China connection”

Note: This is SubChina’s report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


China builds world’s fastest wind tunnel to test weapons that could strike US within 14 minutes


Researchers want new facility to be up and running by 2020 as race to develop hypersonic technology intensifies

China is testing a range of hypersonic aircraft, which can travel at many times the speed of sound. Photo: SCMP

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 November, 2017, 9:01pm

UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 November, 2017, 11:26pm

A hypersonic vehicle flying at this speed from China could reach the west coast of the United States in less than 14 minutes.

Zhao Wei, a senior scientist working on the project, said researchers aimed to have the facility up and running by around 2020 to meet the pressing demand of China’s hypersonic weapon development programme.

“It will boost the engineering application of hypersonic technology, mostly in military sectors, by duplicating the environment of extreme hypersonic flights, so problems can be discovered and solved on the ground,” said Zhao, a deputy director of the State Key Laboratory of High Temperature Gas Dynamics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing.

The ground tests will significantly reduce the risk of failure when test flights of hypersonic aircraft start.

The world’s most powerful wind tunnel at present is America’s LENX-X facility in Buffalo, New York state, which operates at speeds of up to 10 kilometres per second – 30 times the speed of sound.

Hypersonic aircraft are defined as vehicles that travel of speeds of Mach 5, five times the speed of sound, or above.

The US military tested HTV-2, a Mach 20 unmanned aircraft in 2011 but the hypersonic flight lasted only a few minutes before the vehicle crashed in to the Pacific Ocean.

In March China conducted seven successful test flights of its hypersonic glider WU-14, also known as the DF-ZF, at speeds of between Mach 5 and Mach 10.

Other countries including Russia, India and Australia have also tested some early prototypes of the aircraft, which could be used to deliver missiles including nuclear weapons.

“China and the US have started a hypersonic race,” said Wu Dafang, professor at the school of aeronautic science and engineering at Beihang University in Beijing who received a national technology award for the invention of a new heat shield used on hypersonic vehicles in 2013.

The JF-12 hypersonic wind tunnel near Beijing is able to replicate hypersonic flight conditions. Photo: SCMP

Wu has worked on the development of hypersonic cruise missiles, a near space vehicle, high-speed drones and other possible weapons for the People’s Liberation Army.

He said there were a number of hypersonic wind tunnels in mainland China which had helped ensure the high success rate of its hypersonic weapon tests.

The new wind tunnel will be “one of the most powerful and advanced ground test facilities for hypersonic vehicles in the world”, said Wu, who was not involved in the project.

“This is definitely good news for us. I look forward to its completion,” he added.

In the new tunnel there will be a test chamber with room for relatively large aircraft models with a wing span of almost three metres.

To generate an airflow at extremely high speeds, the researchers will detonate several tubes containing a mixture of oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen gases for a series of explosions that could discharge one gigawatt of power within a split second, according to Zhao.

This is more than half of the total power generation capacity of the Daya Bay nuclear power plant in Guangdong.

The shock waves, channelled into the test chamber through a metallic tunnel, will envelope the prototype vehicle and increase the temperature over its body to 8,000 Kelvins, or 7,727 degrees Celsius, Zhao said.

That is nearly 50 per cent hotter than the surface of the Sun.

The hypersonic vehicle therefore must be covered by special materials with extremely efficient cooling systems inside the airframe to dissipate the heat, otherwise it could easily veer off the course or disintegrate during a long-distance flight.

The new tunnel would also be used to test the scramjet, a new type of jet engine designed specifically for hypersonic flights. Traditional jet engines are not capable of handling air flows at such speeds.

The JF12 facility has been in operation since 2012, testing a variety of hypersonic weapons. Photo: SCMP

Zhao said the construction of the new facility would be led by the same team that built JF12, a hypervelocity denotation-driven shock tunnel in Beijing capable of duplicating flight conditions at speeds ranging from Mach 5 to Mach 9 at altitudes between 20 and 50 kilometres.

Jiang Zonglin, lead developer of the JF12, won the annual Ground Test Award issued by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics last year for advancing “state-of-the-art large-scale hypersonic test facilities”.

Jiang’s JF12 design “uses no moving parts and generates a longer test-duration and a higher energy flow than more traditionally designed tunnels”, according to the American institute.

According to state media reports, the JF12 tunnel has been operating at full capacity with a new test every two days since its completion in 2012 as the pace of hypersonic weapon development increased significantly in recent years.

In an article published in the domestic journal National Science Review last month, Jiang said the impact of hypersonic flights on society could be “revolutionary”.

“With practical hypersonic aeroplanes, a two-hour flight to anywhere in the world will be possible” while the cost of space travel could be cut by 99 per cent with reusable spacecraft technology, Jiang wrote.

“Hypersonic flight is, and in the foreseeable future will be, the driver of national security, and civilian transportation and space access,” he added.

The escape velocity, or the minimum speed needed to leave the Earth, is 11 kilometres per second.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Wind tunnel to give China edge in hypersonic tests

Source: SCMP “China builds world’s fastest wind tunnel to test weapons that could strike US within 14 minutes”
Note: This is SCMP’s report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.