China's Hainan Island: Luxury Villas… and a Launch Site

China's Hainan Island: Luxury Villas… and a Launch Site

Today’s New York Times article about the luxury boom on China’s Hainan island omits one very important aspect of the island’s future — its role as a space launch site for China’s newest launch vehicle.

The newspaper focuses on Hainan as “a potent symbol of China’s economic vitality” that is “viewed with a mix of awe, envy and disgust” by the Chinese, but nary a word is said about the launch site under construction for China’s Long March 5 launch vehicle or its potential role in China’s purported plans to send people to the Moon. Construction of the Hainan Space Launch Center recently began and is expected to be completed in 2013, with the first Long March 5 launch the following year. Hainan will be the southernmost of China’s four launch sites, 19 degrees from the equator.

The Long March 5 is being designed to launch 25 tons into low Earth orbit, roughly equivalent to a Delta 4 heavy. Chinese media stories talk about its use for launching geostationary satellites, space stations, large satellites, and deep space probes. If China wanted to send people to the Moon as many in the West speculate, it is the most likely launch vehicle to support such a goal.

Hainan is a big island — about the size of Belgium according to the New York Times. As Mr. Yin Liming of China Great Wall Industry Corp. said at the CSIS Global Space Development Summit last November, the Long March 5 is touted as being “non-toxic and pollution free,” so the golfers and yachters should have nothing to worry about.

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