• Post category:Space Exploration
  • Reading time:4 mins read

We have discussed about the significant works done by NASA, ESA, Roscosmos, ISRO, and JAXA. In this article, we will discuss about China National Space Administration (CNSA), its journey, and its achievements.

Logo for China National Space Administration.
Logo for China National Space Administration.

China’s space program evolved largely in secret under the joint control of the Chinese military and the Commission on Science, Technology, and Industry for the National Defense. After the communist takeover of 1949, the Chinese engineer Qian Xuesen, who had helped found the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., U.S., returned to China, where he became the guiding figure in the development of Chinese missiles and launch vehicles, both originally derived from a Soviet intercontinental ballistic missile.

In 1956 Qian was named the first director of the Ministry of National Defense’s Fifth Research Academy, which was founded to develop ballistic missiles and which later was in charge of the first steps in China’s space program. In 1964 the space program was placed under the Seventh Ministry of Machine Building. The Seventh Ministry became the Ministry of Aerospace Industry in 1983. In 1993 the Ministry of Aerospace Industry was split into an independent Chinese Aerospace Corporation (which supervised most Chinese space-equipment manufacturers) and the CNSA.

Location of China’s spaceports
Location of China’s spaceports

Its headquarters is in Beijing. The CNSA operates three launch facilities: Jiuquan, in Gansu province; Taiyuan, in Shanxi province; and Xichang, in Sichuan province.

China has developed a family of Chang Zheng (Long March) boosters, which are used domestically and serve as competitors in the international commercial space launch market. Its space development has concentrated on applications such as communications satellites and Earth-observation satellites for civilian and military use.

Comparison of super heavy-lift launch vehicles. Masses listed are the maximum payload to low Earth orbit in metric tons.
Comparison of super heavy-lift launch vehicles. Masses listed are the maximum payload to low Earth orbit in metric tons.

China initiated its own human spaceflight program in 1992. The spacecraft, called Shenzhou, that it developed for the effort was modeled on Russia’s time-tested Soyuz design, but it relied heavily on Chinese-developed technologies and manufacturing. Following four years of unmanned spacecraft tests, the CNSA launched China’s first taikonaut (astronaut), Yang Liwei, into orbit on Oct. 15, 2003. In so doing, it became the third country—after the Soviet Union and the United States—to achieve human spaceflight.

Yang Liwei - China's first man in space, on his maiden flight in 2003. (Credits: AFP)
Yang Liwei – China’s first man in space, on his maiden flight in 2003. (Credits: AFP)

Despite its relatively short history, CNSA has pioneered a number of achievements in space for China, including becoming the first space agency to land on the far side of the Moon with Chang’e 4, bringing material back from the Moon with Chang’e 5, and being the second agency who successfully landed a rover on Mars with Tianwen-1.


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