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Beyond The Final Frontier Ii The Rising Dragon


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An overview of the Chinese space program as of Feb 2009.

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Beyond The Final Frontier Ii The Rising Dragon

  1. 1. Beyond The Final Frontier II The Rising Dragon Feb 2009 – – Nadir Belarbi Outside the Circle Up to date, and by chronological order, only 3 countries: Russia (1961), The US (1962) and China (2003) have been able to launch humans into space.Five additional entities have Satellite launch capabilities: Japan, Israel, Europe (throughFrance), India and recently Iran. Iran joined the club last 2nd of February 2009; when itlaunched the small Omid communications satellite aboard a Safir 2 rocket. Outside the circleand despite other established space nations, the Middle Kingdom is quickly spreading itswings. Countries with Satellite Launch CapabilitiesChina - : The Rising DragonThe Dragon space history is not recent. After Russia and the US, the China National SpaceAdministration (CNSA) is the third nation that successfully launched the April 24, 1970 afirst satellite, Mao 1, on a Long March 1 rocket. Several observation and telecommunicationsatellites were launched in the following decades.China accomplished a major milestone in 2003, after demonstrating its manned missioncapabilities. Five years later, astronaut Zhai Zhigang conducted the first space walk or EVA(Extra-Vehicular Activity) the 28th of September 2008 as part of the Shenzhou 7 mission. China is aggressively catching up with the two world leaders; Russia and the US. It ended 2008 with 11 successful launches a new record for launches in a single year. A major achievement compared to the 15 launches operated by the US during the same year, a nation with obviously more capabilities and a larger spatial experience than China. The new US administration has indeed a diametrical opposed policy compared to China. While the Dragon declared that space was a priority, the US administration is more conservative, aiming low Astronaut Zhai Zhigang back to expenses and no major breakthrough. earth after his EVA, the 28th of September 20
  2. 2. China is now aiming the Moon with a possible manned mission around it before 2015.The influx of foreign currencies thanks to the globalization and their foreign trade surplusduring the last years, have fueled the Chinese National Space Agency (CNSA) with a freshsupply of money. The current $500M budget is very likely to be understated as many othermetrics in the Chinese economy.The low profile stratagem seems to be the rule in the rising Dragon strategy to trigger astronger surprise effect "à la" Sun Tzu.A report issued last year by Paris-based Euroconsult, "World Prospects for GovernmentSpace Markets", appears to confirm this hypothesis, stating that the China National SpaceAdministrations (CNSA) current budget is about US$1.3 billion, up 6% from 2007.From a size point of view, 200,000 people are working for the Chinese Space agency versusnearly 17,000 for NASA. The Chinese have very talented people and they the capacity tolaunch very large scale and complex projects.Indeed, China has already launched aremarkable number of research, weatherand surveillance satellites and is nowplanning to launch by 2015 its own GlobalPositioning System (GPS). Moreover, theOctober 24, 2007, Change 1, an un-manned lunar orbiter was successfullylaunched at Xichang Satellite LaunchCenter and other launches are expected in2010 and 2011. A Moon Rover is evenexpected by 2017. Satellite "Yaogan V" launched with a Long March-The dragon likes to surprise its 4B rocket from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Centercompetitors and this firework of dates and in north Chinas Shanxi Province, Dec. 15, 2008.schedule is probably masking other datesand objectives.The 28th of January 2009, China began to work on an Antarctic station more than 12,000 feet(4093 m) above the sea level on the continents highest icecap. The perfect place to trainastronauts for future Lunar or Martian missions. From a Geopolitical point view, will theMoon replace at the long term the African strategy of Beijing?Ouyang Ziyuan, head of the first phase of lunar exploration, was quoted on government-sanctioned news site describing plans to collect three dimensional images ofthe Moon for future mining of Helium 3: "There are altogether 15 tons of helium-3 on Earth,while on the Moon, the total amount of Helium-3 can reach one to five million tons."Even if technically feasible, one could cautiously question the pertinence of alleviatingmillion tons of the satellite that governs some important Earth mechanisms. The hundred ofhours of Apollo missions that I had the opportunity to study show for sure that the Moonmanned exploration is a very complex and costly task that would require immense budgets todevelop a large-scale permanent and sustainable Moon colonization. Apollo 17 crew spentless than 8 hours on the lunar surface, the current record.The International Space Station build up started in 1998 and is not yet finished after a decadeand over $200B spent despite its proximity to earth and the collaboration of nearly 16
  3. 3. countries. Building a permanent base on the Moon will certainly requires more importantmeans and logistics. Officially the Chinese are aiming to send the first manned mission to theMoon in 2024 but things could happen earlier. Depending on the economy and the success oftheir different missions, the Chinese could plant their national flag into the lunar surfacebefore the US comeback planned in 2020.The Chinese are also planning to have their own space station in orbit around the Earth, a stepforward in this direction. As stated by the former NASA administrator, M. Griffin, the currentChinese Space Program resembles the Gemini US program that NASA ran between 1965 and1966. These ten flights helped the US to master the Space Walk, Rendez-Vous and othertechniques that were crucial for a lunar mission. But the Moon is a "Deja-Vu" and China isnow targeting Mars and the launch of an unmanned probe in October 2009 on top of aRussian launcher. Despite its endemic secrecy on its own space program, the Chinese SpaceAgency is planning to collaborate with several international space agencies. Beijing need tolearn more and transfer technology at a faster pace.Much of this "know how" directly or indirectly inspired by the West has granted China withan International class launcher reliability; Beijing didnt experience any launch failure since1996. Many critics of the Chinese policy and space program may be right in pointing theseshortcuts but one thing is sure; the Chinese are working day and night to achieve theseobjectives and thats a sufficient reason to respect and be inspired by the rising dragonmotivation.But the Chinese race for space is not done solely for a national pride purpose, space will grantthe rising Dragon with the means to control and improve its communications, research andmilitary programs. The paramount of this "tour de force" was done last 11th of January 2007when China destroyed a weather satellite using a ground-based medium-range ballisticmissile to destroy a weather satellite.The worldwide acceleration of the space orbital activity is the sign that the space exclusivityto some world powers will quickly disappear in the next decades. Will this be the chance toshift the phenomenal spending of the Iron-Triangle from Earth to Space? Hopefully, the newspace race with China will reduce the incentive of producing other weapons and triggeringwars but rather focusing on the Astropolitical vs. Geopolitical issues that the presence on theMoon of these emerging regional powers will create.Life is about priorities and the budget spending in the next decade will define who will keepits "Most innovative nation" status.Sun Tzu was right, you cant fight all your enemies at the same time but you can choose thefirst one to fight. The Chinese seem to have chosen to tackle innovation and energeticindependence while the West is still wandering in central Asia, desperately trying to securevanishing oil, energy of the past and financing a costly presence draining its finances.The descendants of the Dragon ( ) know that if they will be the first coming back tothe Moon and/or walking on Mars, their prestige as the new super power will be final andunalterable.Not far from China, another emerging regional power is dreaming of lunar voyages andMartian adventures. With an immense talent and engineer’s reservoir, the secular India is onthe raise, no longer competing against a sleeping Western world but against the flames of theflying dragon.
  4. 4. Nadir Belarbi received an Engineering degree from the University of Science and Technology ofOran, Algeria (1993), a Master Degree in Networks and Telecommunications from Paris V University& Sup Telecom Paris, France (1994), studied 3 years of studies and research on Intelligent Networksduring a PhD program (1997) and received an Executive MBA from the Chicago University, BoothGraduate School of Business, USA (2008). He has worked for IBM, Air France, Groupe Danone andDannon US. He is currently (2012) an IT Program Director at The Canadian National (CN).Nadir Belarbi’s research has spanned a large number of disciplines, emphasizing informationtechnology and telecommunications with a focus on emerging technologies. As a manager with multi-cultural skills speaking five languages, he worked in an international environment where he specializedin the coordination and lobbying of global organizations.His political and social experience ranges from heading the corporate work council to participating inpolitical and geopolitical organizations and think tanks. With a major interest in Intelligence,Technology & Energy roles in Geopolitical, Military & Security issues, he is now managing aLinkedIn group and a Portal ( on Business, Innovation & Geopolitics.