Will Tianjin Explosion Impact China's Space Program?

Will Tianjin Explosion Impact China's Space Program?

Veteran space journalist Leonard David reports today that the chemical explosions in Tianjin, China could have an impact on China’s space program.

In a post on his website, David cites Chinese state-run news outlets as saying that the explosions broke windows and caused ceilings to collapse at the National Supercomputing Center in Tianjin that “some reports say is tied to China’s space program.”  He adds that the installation, Tianhe-1, was shut down because of the damage.

China’s new Long March 5 and Long March 7 rockets are manufactured and tested in Tianjin.  A December 25, 2014 China Daily article quotes Tao Gang, general manager of the Tianjin Long March Launch Vehicle Manufacturing Co. Ltd., as saying they were close to completing development of the Long March 7.  That vehicle and the Long March 5 are expected to replace current versions of the Long March rocket.  Both will be launched from China’s new Wenchang Space Launch Center on Hainan Island. 

The first Long March 5 is expected to launch no later than 2016 according to the U.S. Department of Defense’s 2015 annual China military power report.  Similar in capability to the U.S. Delta IV Heavy, the 25-ton to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) vehicle will be used for a wide range of human and robotic earth-orbit and deep-space missions, including construction of a 60-ton LEO space station.  The smaller Long March 7 will be used for cargo missions to the space station according to the China Daily report.

Tianjin Long March Launch Vehicle Manufacturing Co. Ltd. is a subsidiary of the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology.  Chinese television CCTV broadcast a short segment in March showing the Long March 5 at the Tianjin facility.

Writing in Aerospace America in September 2013, Jim Oberg described the Tianjin facility based on information published by China’s Xinhua news agency.  It covers 313.33 hectares with a 220,000 cubic meter assembly building for “launch vehicles, space stations, and ‘special equipment’ (presumably other large satellites).”  Phase One of construction was completed in February 2012, according to Oberg.

Chinese authorities are still investigating the cause of the explosions
at a warehouse in Tianjin, a port city about 70 miles (110 kilometers)
from Beijing, that killed more than 100 people and injured hundreds
others.  Where the Long March production and test facilities are located
relative to the site of the explosions is not clear. 

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