China Releases Ambitious Space Plan for 2020

By Ryan Gandolfo, January 21, 2020

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China has some big goals in 2020 for the nation’s space program, expecting to send over 60 spacecrafts into orbit this year, according to a plan released by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) last Friday.

After completing 34 space launches in 2019, the Chinese space program’s main contractor is planning more than 40 launches to start the new decade, with three major missions largely focused on completing the Beidou-3 Navigation Satellite System, lunar exploration and the network of Gaofen observation satellites.

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Image via @我不是小馨/Weibo

The Beidou-3 navigation system, viewed as an alternative to the US Air Force’s Global Positioning System (GPS), is expected to be finished in June 2020 and will compete with the US network of satellites in the global civilian satellite navigation market, as well as be adopted by China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Consisting of 30 satellites, BeiDou’s mapping technology provides users with positioning accuracy of about 10 meters globally and less than five meters in the Asia-Pacific region.

In addition to the finished construction of BeiDou, the Chang’e-5 lunar probe is expected to return moon samples back to earth while a new Mars probe is planned for 2020.

China’s new carrier rockets, including the Long March-5B, Long March-7A and Long March-8, have three planned launches this year. The rockets will carry a new generation of manned spacecraft, a Mars probe and Chang’e-5 probe, Xinhua reported.

Beijing has made space exploration a key part in the country’s developmental goals, with President Xi Jinping saying “The space dream is part of the dream to make China stronger,” after a successful launch in 2013.

At the start of 2019, China’s space program made history by landing the first-ever probe on the far side of the moon, marking a major milestone in space exploration. One mission we’re especially interested in seeing come to fruition this year: The ‘illumination satellite’ designed in Chengdu, which was dubbed the ‘artifical moon’ in 2018 and planned for a 2020 launch.

WATCH: Chinese Lunar Probe Lands on Moon's Far Side

[Cover image via @我不是小馨/Weibo]

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