Saturday, December 30, 2017

China's AG-600 seaplane makes maiden flight

AG-600 is currently the largest Seaplane in the World, it has potential use in South China Sea.

The world's largest amphibian seaplane, the Chinese AG600, made its first flight from Jinwan Civil Aviation Airport in Zhuhai, Guangdong, China. Large as a civilian airliner, the AG600 can take off and land from water. The aircraft, nicknamed Kunlong, was in development for seven years and will be used to perform firefighting, rescues at sea, and patrol China’s artificial islands in the South China Sea.

The AG600's first flight didn't involve any water. Instead, the aircraft flew for about an hour before returning to the airport to land. The AG600 is designed and manufactured by China’s state-run Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), which is responsible for the bulk of China’s new military aircraft, including the J-10 and J-20 fighters, the Y-20 heavy transport, and the Z-10 attack helicopter.

The AG600 has a wingspan of 121 feet and a maximum takeoff weight of 53.6 tons, making it about as large as an Airbus 320 or Boeing 737. The amphibious seaplane features both a boat-like hull for water takeoffs and landings and a conventional, tricycle-style set of landing gears for operating from a runway. The airplane uses 100 percent Chinese components, including four WJ-6 turboprop engines descended from a 1950s-era engine designed by the Soviet Union.

Kunlong can accommodate up to 50 passengers, making it useful for evacuating ships during maritime emergencies or transferring personnel from islands not equipped with landing strips. The seaplane can also, according to Chinese state media, scoop up 12 metric tons of water in 20 seconds for fire fighting. The AG600 is unarmed, for now, but could probably carry torpedoes and depth charges in the anti-submarine warfare role.

While the AG600 clearly has civilian roles, it also has a military role that AVIC is likely downplaying. The seaplane is ideal for maintaining China’s artificial islands in the South China Sea. Built up by seafloor dredging from islets and shoals, these islands are, contrary to Beijing's earlier statements, gradually becoming militarized with air bases, radars, and weapons. The islands help China monitor traffic in the South China Sea, which will form a protective belt not only for the Chinese mainland but also a bastion the country's fleet of nuclear ballistic missile submarines. The Jin-class submarines provide a powerful "second strike" capability that ensures revenge attacks if China were the victim of a surprise nuclear first strike. China has claimed ninety percent of the South China Sea, a territorial claim that rankles neighbors.

The AG600 will be useful in not only monitoring the South China Sea but keeping remote bases supplied with personnel and supplies. The aircraft can stay aloft for up to 12 hours and has a range of up to 2,800 miles, meaning it can easily make a round trip flight from mainland China to most of the South China Sea without refueling.

The AG600 has also scooped up 17 orders from various arms of the Chinese government. That number hasn't changed since 2016. The crucial test will be if the aircraft gains any overseas orders.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Long March 6 launches three Earth-observing satellites into orbit from Taiyuan site

A Long March 6 rocket took to the skies for the second time in history on Tuesday, November 21, 2017, carrying three Jilin-1 satellites designed for Earth observation purposes. Liftoff took place at 04:50 GMT (11:50 p.m. EST on Monday) from the Launch Complex 16 at the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center (TSLC) in China's Shanxi Province.

Long March 6 with a maximum load of one ton is a fast reaction space launcher. It utilizes the same first stage as Long March 5

The launch of the mission was initially targeted for July 2017; however, due to setbacks with Long March 3B in June and Long March 5 in July, China was forced to halt its orbital flights for three months. The confirmation of the new launch date came in late October when engineers finished the assembly of the Long March 6 rocket and the satellites were shipped to Taiyuan.

Firing up its one YF-100 engine, the first stage of the Long March 6 booster started powering the launch vehicle during the initial phase of the flight. Chinese media have kept the details about the timeline of the mission under wraps; however, the flight most likely lasted about 15 minutes until the separation of the satellites.

After separation, the three Jilin-1 satellites, designated Jilin-1 04, 05, and 06, were inserted into a highly inclined Sun-synchronous orbit (SSO) at an altitude of 332 miles (535 kilometers).

Named after China’s Jilin province, Jilin-1 satellites were developed and produced by Chang Guang Satellite Technology Co., Ltd. Each Jilin-1 spacecraft weighs around 209 pounds (95 kilograms) and has dimensions of 3.6 by 3.9 feet (1.1 by 1.19 meters). The satellites feature a fixed solar array and are designed to offer their services for more than three years.

Jilin-1 are commercial remote sensing satellites designed to provide high-definition video imaging. In particular, the satellites will deliver imaging, video, multispectral, and wide swath coverage of the ground from low-Earth orbit (LEO). The data obtained by these spacecraft will be used for land resources monitoring, land surveying and mapping, mineral resources development, smart city construction, agriculture yield estimation, environmental monitoring, disaster prevention, and other areas.

When it comes to Jilin-1 04, 05, and 06, they are expected to deliver video imaging with a swath width of 11.9 by 2.8 miles (19 by 4.5 kilometers) with a resolution greater than 3.3 feet (one meter).

“Researchers greatly improved the temporal resolution of the new satellites, reducing the visiting time (the length of time it takes for the orbiting satellite to fly by a certain point) from three days to one day, which will greatly upgrade service ability and promote marketing in sensing satellites,” China Daily reports.

So far, China has launched three Jilin-1 satellites into space – Jilin-1 01 and Jilin-1 02 (in October 2015) as well as Jilin-1 03 (January 2017). Chang Guang Satellite Technology intends to have 10 Jilin-1 satellites operational before yearend; therefore, the next two spacecraft in the series should be delivered into orbit also in November, by a Long March 11 rocket. However, the exact date of the mission is still unknown.

By 2020, the company aims to have a network of 60 spacecraft in service, hoping that it will provide a 10-minute revisit capability of satellites anywhere in the world. By 2030, this network should expand to 137 satellites.

The 95 feet (29 meters) tall Long March 6 used for Tuesday’s mission is China’s new generation light-lift booster. It is a three-stage small satellite launcher capable of placing up to 2,380 pounds (1,080 kilograms) into an SSO. The launch vehicle has a diameter of 11 feet (3.35 meters) and weighs about 103 metric tons. It was developed by the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology.

The rocket’s first stage measures around 49 feet (15 meters) in length and 11 feet (3.35 meters) in diameter. It consists of a single YF-100 engine that burns kerosene and LOX (liquid oxygen) propellant, which causes less pollution compared to the UDMH/N2O4 (nitrogen tetroxide) that is currently in use. This stage burns for approximately three minutes.

The 24 feet (7.3 meters) long second stage measures some 7.4 feet (2.25 meters) in diameter. It is powered by a single YF-115 engine that has the ability to perform more than one burn for injections into a variety of orbits.

The third stage measures about 5.9 feet (1.8 meters) in length and 7.4 feet (2.25 meters) in diameter. It is equipped with four YF-85 engines and is capable of making multiple burns over a long mission duration.

Long March 6 is described by the country as being the first carrier rocket that uses fuel free of toxicity and pollution. China hopes it will help the nation to cut the expenses tied to sending payloads aloft.

The maiden flight of the Long March 6 rocket took place at 23:01 GMT on September 19, 2015, when it put a fleet of 20 microsatellites into orbit, launching from Taiyuan.

Tuesday’s liftoff was the 255th mission carried out by the Long March vehicle family. It was also the 13th orbital launch for China this year. Next Chinese mission is scheduled for November 25 when a Long March 3B rocket will send two BeiDou-3 navigation satellites into orbit.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Chinese Navy to receive Type 055 missile destroyer

China's new Type 055 missile destroyer to upgrade reaction capability of weapons, improve country's navy: expert

Media have reported that China's new missile destroyer (more like a cruiser) equips more than 100 Vertical Launching Systems (VLS), which experts said on Thursday could upgrade the rapid-reaction capability of weapons.

A report published by CCTV on Tuesday showed that China's new Type 055 guided-missile destroyer has had 112 VLS cells installed, surpassing the US Navy's Arleigh Burke-class destroyers in quantity.

"The number of VLSs shows the combat and rapid-reaction capability of [China's] warships," military expert Song Zhongping told the Global Times on Thursday.

"Since recharging a VLS is relatively difficult, the more VLSs a vessel takes, the stronger and quicker its reaction," he said.

According to Song, China's previous destroyers could only equip limited numbers of launching cells, so the Type 055 could upgrade rapid-reaction capabilities of weapons, Song said, noting that increasing the number of launching tubes and cells of vessels is the necessary road for China's large warships in the future.

The Type 055 destroyer, the Chinese navy's first 10,000-ton domestically designed and produced vessel (for comparison, US navy's Ticonderoga-class cruiser is about 9800 ton), was unveiled at Jiangnan Shipyard (Group) in East China's Shanghai on June 28, the Xinhua News Agency said.

The destroyer is the first of China's new generation destroyers. It is equipped with new air defense, anti-missile, anti-ship and anti-submarine weapons. The vessel marks a milestone in improving the nation's navy armament system and in building a strong and modern navy, said Xinhua.

"The Type 055 destroyer will form China's anti-missile system together with the 052D destroyer, which has been commissioned. China will also be able to build a Chinese version of the Aegis missile defense system with the inclusion of the Type 055," Song told the Global Times in a previous interview.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

China's second aircraft carrier to start trails soon

China has one aircraft carrier in operation now -- the 'Liaoning', which went into commission in 2012 (an old retired soviet ship purchased from Ukraine). The Type 001A is the country's first home-grown aircraft carrier.China has one aircraft carrier in operation now -- the 'Liaoning', which went into commission in 2012. The Type 001A is the country's first home-grown aircraft carrier.
China's second aircraft carrier is likely to start its first sea trials soon with the development to be presented as a key achievement of President Xi Jinping at the ruling Communist Party's Congress expected to take place in October.

The "key project" team has completed tasks ahead of schedule, Hu Wenming, the head and Party chief of the China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC), the manufacturer of the Type 001A said.

China has one aircraft carrier in operation now -- the 'Liaoning', which went into commission in 2012. The Type 001A is the country's first home-grown aircraft carrier.

The Dalian Shipbuilding Industry Corp (DSIC) where it was built will greet the 19th CPC National Congress by delivering key achievements on a special product in this special time," DSIC Chairman Liu Zheng was quoted as saying by state-run Global Times today.

The Congress which is held every five years is expected to be held in October here. Xi, 64, who is completing his five year tenure as party general secretary, President and head of the Army, is widely believed to get a second term.

As per the practice of the CPC, top leaders will have a ten year tenure.

Liu said all personnel working on the key project led by the CSIC will stick to the directions of Xi to provide world- class naval equipment for a world-leading navy.

The "special time" refers to the 19th Congress, which marks the opening of a new phase of China's reforms. And the enhancement of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) navy's combat capabilities is an important part of the country's military reforms," Li Jie, a Beijing-based naval expert, told the Daily.

Zhang Ye, a research fellow at the PLA Naval Research Institute said that if the Type 001A made in China can start its sea trials before the event, which is the last stage prior to turning the warship over to the navy, it would mark a huge step forward in China's development of a stronger navy.

China has successfully tested the Type 001A's power system and the carrier will undergo a mooring test in September ahead of schedule, meaning that the ship's power system is all set.

Zhang said he believed part of the mooring test has already started even during the power test, so the mooring test period could be shorter than expected.

The schedule for the sea trials will depend on how long the mooring test takes, Zhang noted.

The sea trials will include an even more comprehensive performance test, which would cover the propelling and communications systems under different maritime conditions, which would usually take two years, Zhang said. He added the trials would not be limited to a specific weather condition.

"The Type 001A is an improved version of the Type 001 Liaoning, so the similarity and experience can largely speed things up," Song Zhongping, a military expert who served in the Rocket (Missile Force) said.

China's 'Liaoning' is a refurbished aircraft carrier built from the hull of a Soviet ship bought from Ukraine in 1998. Regarded as an experimental vessel, it is taking part in battle group exercises in different seas.

The second ship, Type 001A weighs about 70,000 tonnes, is 315 metres long, 75 metres wide and has a cruising speed of 31 knots.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

China's quantum satellite Mozi 墨子 produces a successful result

Communication through quantum entanglement is impossible to crack.
Many nations are researching in the area of secure communication.
 In a paper published today in Science, researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences announced China's quantum satellite "Mozi" 墨子 had successfully distributed entangled photons between three different terrestrial base stations, separated by as much as 1,200 kilometers on the ground. The result is the longest entanglement ever demonstrated, and the first that spanned between the Earth and space. Researchers say the system "opens up a new avenue to both practical quantum communications and fundamental quantum optics experiments at distances previously inaccessible on the ground.”

The spacecraft was launched by a Long March 2D rocket from Jiuquan Launch Pad 603, Launch Area 4 on 17 August 2016. The satellite uses a crystal to produce pairs of entangled photons in orbit. The photons are then transmitted down to base stations in China, traveling as much as 2400 km through space. The mission costs around US$100 million in total.
In theory, entangled photons can remain linked across any distance, but in practical terms, it's often difficult to distribute photon pairs without disrupting entanglement. If entanglement can be maintained, the result is a communication channel that’s effectively impossible to intercept. The simplest application is what cryptographers call a quantum key distribution network, using the network to securely distribute long and complex encryption keys. Anyone trying to intercept those keys would be easy to detect, since it's impossible to observe the photons in transit without altering them.
Quantum networking has already shown promise in terrestrial fiber networks, where specialized routing equipment can perform the same trick over conventional fiber-optic cable. The first such network was a DARPA-funded connection established in 2003 between Harvard, Boston University, and a private lab. In the years since, a number of companies have tried to build more ambitious connections. The Swiss company ID Quantique has mapped out a quantum network that would connect many of North America’s largest data centers; in China, a separate team is working on a 2,000-kilometer quantum link between Beijing and Shanghai, which would rely on fiber to span an even greater distance than the satellite link. Still, the nature of fiber places strict limits on how far a single photon can travel.
According to ID Quantique, a reliable satellite link could connect the existing fiber networks into a single globe-spanning quantum network. "This proves the feasibility of quantum communications from space," ID Quantique CEO Gregoire Ribordy tells The Verge. "The vision is that you have regional quantum key distribution networks over fiber, which can connect to each other through the satellite link.”
China isn't the only country working on bringing quantum networks to space. A collaboration between the UK's University of Strathclyde and the National University of Singapore is hoping to produce the same entanglement in cheap, readymade satellites called Cubesats. A Canadian team is also developing a method of producing entangled photons on the ground before sending them into space.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

China successfully launches x-ray satellite 慧眼 using Long March 4B

China's first astronomical satellite,  慧眼, "insight" or "smart eye", an x-ray telescope that will search the sky for black holes, neutron stars, was placed into orbit today after an early morning launch from the Inner Mongolia Desert.

The 2.8-ton Hard X-ray Modulation Telescope (HXMT), dubbed Insight according to  Xinhua news agency, was carried aloft by a Long March-4B medium lift rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center 酒泉衛星發射中心. The newest of several x-ray telescope in space, the HXMT will observe some of the most turbulent processes in the universe. The x-rays generated by those events cannot penetrate Earth's atmosphere; they can only be observed by high-altitude balloons or satellites. The HXMT carries three x-ray telescopes observing at energy ranging from 20 to 200 kilo-electron volts as well as an instrument to inspect the space environment, according to its designers. While orbiting 600 kilometers above the planet, the HXMT will perform a sky survey that is expected to discover many new x-ray sources. Over an expected operating lifetime of 4 years, it will also conduct focused observations of black holes, neutron stars, and gamma ray bursts.

This great achievement by China's space science program "is certainly welcomed" by the world community, says Andrew Fabian, a theoretical astrophysicist at the University of Cambridge in England. "It is very meaningful that they have launched their first astronomical satellite and this will pave the way for others,” he says. Fabian believes that the HXMT sky survey will prove particularly valuable for catching transient x-ray sources that emerge, flare up to tremendous brightness, and then just as quickly fade away. As yet, the processes behind x-ray transients are poorly understood. Other missions are also trying to catch transients in the act. But "any satellite looking at that phenomena is going to find interesting things and do good science," Fabian says.

The "Insight" is the last of the cluster of four space science missions covered under China 12th 5-year plan that were developed by the National Space Science Center (NSSC) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing-the other three are a dark matter probe, a collection of microgravity experiments, and a test of long-range quantum entanglement. Funding constraints meant all four had to be developed simultaneously, and all four were launched over the course of 18 months. " This is not a sustainable way to have a science program," NSSC Director  told Science in a 2016 interview.

Monday, May 29, 2017

China's planned far side of Moon sample mission

A view of the far side of the Moon and the distant Earth, captured by the 2014 Change 5-T1 mission.

China is progressing with plans to launch an unprecedented attempt to collect samples from the far side of the Moon in 2020, as well as future polar missions, following a meeting of top lunar scientists and space officials in Beijing.

The ambitious and complex Chang'e-6 mission is part of wider plans outlined for the exploration of the Moon which will follow on from the original three-stage Chinese Lunar Exploration Project (中国探月工程).

Chang'e-6 would follow the first ever landing on the far side of the Moon by the Chang'e-4 lander and rover mission, scheduled for late 2018, and would likely also target the scientifically significant South Pole-Aitken Basin.

Probes to both lunar poles are also being developed for the decade of 2020, which tentatively involve surface exploration, resource development and related technology validation.

"The exploration of lunar poles is a significant innovation in human history, which has drawn great attention from around the world. It will also lay a solid foundation for deeper and more accurate Moon probes in the future," Tian Yulong, chief engineer at SASTIND, said in October.

Such missions will also be of interest to the European Space Agency (ESA), which has been discussing cooperation in and coordination of lunar exploration plans with China as part of ESA's 'Moon Village' concept.

In March, Mr Wu told Xinhua agency that Chang'e-6 would target a 2020 launch, but that the mission had not yet been officially approved.

Such a declaration could only realistically come after success of China's first, near-side lunar sample return mission, Chang'e-5, which will launch on a Long March 5 heavy lift rocket from Wenchang in November.

CLEP has so far involved two orbiters, Chang'e-1 and 2, and a lander and rover mission, Chang'e-3 in 2013, and will culminate in the Chang'e-5 lunar sample return mission.

The four-part probe involves orbiting, landing, collecting samples, ascending to lunar orbit, rendezvous and docking in orbit, high-speed return to Earth and a skip reentry into the atmosphere.

The mission, the first of its kind since Soviet's Luna 24 in 1976, could return by far the youngest samples of lunar material so far, and will also prove useful experience for human landings in the future.

If the complex Chang'e-5 mission succeeds in bringing 2 kg of lunar samples back to Earth, Chang'e-6 - the designated backup spacecraft - will then be tasked with the scientific and exploration first of retrieving material from the far side of the Moon.

The far side of the Moon is not visible to Earth due to 'tidal locking', meaning tracking and communicating with the probe directly is not possible.

Thus facilitating a landing on the lunar far side will be a communications relay satellite, stationed in a halo orbit around the second Earth-Moon Lagrange Point beyond the Moon.

This will be launched around six months before the launch of Chang'e-4, which itself is a re-purposed backup to the successful Chang'e-3 mission which involved the Yutu, or Jade Rabbit, rover.

SASTIND, which oversees the Chinese space programme, last autumn stated that it is developing a 20 year strategy for lunar and interplanetary exploration, including the above plans, missions to Mars and potential human landings on the Moon.

While such a goal has been often stated in the media, there is mounting evidence that China is working on the capabilities required for putting astronauts on the lunar surface and getting them home.

In June 2016 as part of the debut flight of the Long March 7 rocket, a scale version of a return capsule for crewed deep space missions was successfully tested.

China is working on two variants of a successor to the crewed Shenzhou spacecraft, with masses of 14 and 20 metric tonnes and capable of accommodating 4-6 astronauts.

And early research into a launch vehicle powerful enough to send the required mass toward to Moon, the Saturn V-class (and Russian failed N1 class) Long March 9 rocket, is already underway.

Long March 9. Long March 9 (LM-9, CZ-9, or Changzheng 9, Chinese: 长征九号) is a Chinese super-heavy carrier rocket that is currently in study. It is planned for a maximum payload capacity of at least 140,000 kg to LEO or at least 50,000 kg to Lunar Transfer Orbit.