Chinese Space Activities in the 1980s
A Changzheng 2 rocket carrying a FSW reconnaissance satellite lifting off from Launch Complex 2 in the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre. The launch vehicle was a booster version of the two-stage Dongfeng 5 (CSS-4) ICBM, and formed the basis for the subsequent Changzheng 3 and 4 series
A Changzheng 3 rocket carrying Dongfanghong 2 communications satellite lifting off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in 1984. The booster was developed from the two-stage Changzheng 2 by adding with a LOX/LH2 third-stage for geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) missions
Dongfanghong 2 was China's first-generation geostationary communications satellite. The 1,025kg satellite was spin-stablised and could carry two C-band transponders
Fengyun 1 was China's first meteorological satellite operating in the 900km polar orbit. The first satellite was launched in September 1988 onboard a Changzheng 4A rocket
The Eighth Academy developed the Changcheng 1 space shuttle concept in the 1980s in its bid for China's crew transportation system (Programme 863-204)
The manned capsule concept developed by the 508th Institute in the 1980s, which later evolved into the Shenzhou spacecraft
China became an established space power in the 1980s through the launch of a range of satellites for remote-sensing, telecommunications, meteorology, and scientific research purposes. More space launch boosters were introduced for LEO, GEO, and polar orbit launch missions. Two new space launch centres, Taiyuan and Xichang, became operational. The 863 Programme, a long-term high-tech R&D initiative introduced in 1986, began to explore the technologies for a human space flight mission. By the late 1980s, the Chinese space industry was confident enough to seek entering the international commercial satellite launch market.
18 May: The first full-range Dongfeng 5 ICBM test. At 10:00:23 local time, a Dongfeng 5 (codename: 580A) was launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre (Base 20). After flying for 29 minutes and 57 seconds over a distance of 9,070km, the re-entry vehicle hit its targeted landing spot ( 7° 42' 23'' S, 172° 15' 36'' E) in the South Pacific, where it was recovered by a PLA naval task force.
21 May: A second Dongfeng 5 missile (codename: 580B) was launched at 11:19:32 local time. However, the second stage of the missile was shut down 6.4 seconds early, resulting in the re-entry vehicle missing its targeted landing spot by 1,400km.
17 June: The first successful land-based test launch of the Julang 1 (CSS-N-3) SLBM.
20 September: A Fengbao 1 booster successfully placed three satellites (Shijian 2, Shijian 2A and Shijian 2B) into orbit. This was China's first successful multiple satellite launch using a single booster and the last flight of the Fengbao 1.
12 October: The first successful underwater launch of the Julang 1 SLBM from a Type 031 diesel-electric missile submarine.
29 January: China launched its first experimental geostationary communications satellite Dongfanghong 2. This was also the maiden flight of the Changzheng 3 rocket, and the first launch ever conducted from the Xichang launch centre. Due to a failure of the rocket’s third-stage engine, the satellite did not enter the geostationary orbit.
8 April: A second launch of the Changzheng 3 from the Xichang launch centre successfully placed a 910kg Dongfanghong 2 experimental communications satellite into the geostationary Earth orbit.
May: The first successful flight test of the Dongfeng 21 (CSS-5) solid-propellant MRBM from Base 25 (Taiyuan Satellite Launch Centre).
March: China initiated the 863 Programme in response to the U.S. Strategic Defence Initiative (SDI). Under the suggestion of four top Chinese scientists, a long-term plan was developed to transform China’s high-tech research and development in eight strategic fields: automation, biotechnology, energy, information technology, lasers, new materials, and space technology.
February: Two committees were set up under the 863 Programme to conduct preliminary research on the human spaceflight technology. The 863-204 Committee headed by Qian Zhen-Ye was in charge of developing the concept for a heavy-lift launch vehicle and the crewed spacecraft. The 863-205 Committee headed by Fan Jian-Feng was in charge of developing the concept for a space station.
April: The 863-204 Committee launched a bid for the concept of a heavy-lift launch vehicle and a crew vehicle system. Over 60 research institutes and academies across the country took part in the competition and the committee received a total of 11 proposals, six of which were chosen for further evaluation.
7 March: China launched its first operational geostationary communications satellite Dongfanghong 2A from the Xichang launch centre using a Changzheng 3 rocket.
7 September: China launched its first meteorological satellite Fengyun 1 into the 900km polar orbit using a Changzheng 4A rocket. This was also the first space launch conducted from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Centre (Base 25).
15 September: The first successful underwater test launch of the Julang 1 SLBM from a Type 092 (Xia class) nuclear-powered missile submarine.
1 November: The China Great Wall Industry Corporation signed the first commercial satellite launch contract with U.S. satellite manufacturer Hughes (now part of Boeing) to launch two Australian communications satellites.
Chinese Space Launches in the 1980s
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* The satellite failed to enter its intended orbit due to launch vehicle engine failure
Statistics (Launch Site)
Statistics (Launch Vehicle)
Last updated: 23 January 2012