Having been founded just under 30 years back, China National Space Administration (CNSA) has its sights set on commercializing its Wenchang spaceport and hosting moon launches.
Established in April 1993, China National Space Administration (CNSA) is China’s government agency that is responsible for civil space administration and international space cooperation. The agency has progressively pushed China to the front lines of space exploration over the decades and has equipped the country with the necessary technology to compete in the ongoing ’space race’. On top of becoming the second space agency to land a rover on Mars, CNSA also managed to send the first land rover to the far side of the Moon and built the Tiangong space station (possibly the only habitable space outpost to exist for a while after the retirement of the International Space Station). Needless to say, having made tremendous progress in a constantly evolving space landscape, China is on par with the United States in its ambitious space programme and is looking to expand its Wenchang spaceport to host commercial and crewed moon launches.
The coastal spaceport has been China’s solution to launching interplanetary and lunar missions, on top of constructing and supplying its Tiangong space station. And now, an upgrade of the spaceport’s capabilities is much needed to support the country’s venture into facilitating commercial launches and the overall development of China’s commercial space industry. Having just completed the Tiangong space station and with plans for crewed Moon landing as well, “Wenchang will see its launch frequency go from between six to eight times a year, to 20 or 30 times a year,” according to Zhong Wen’an, chief engineer of the Xichang Satellite Launch Center. Moreover, a better equipped Wenchang spaceport will also be able to launch the super heavy-lift Long March 9 rocket, that will facilitate the building of China’s lunar base and other space assignments, such as the space-based solar power programme.
In garnering international acknowledgement and support, China is also planning to seek space partnerships with gulf nations that are forging their own paths in the international space community. In December 2022, Saudi Arabia hosted the first-ever China-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Summit in Riyadh where space was highlighted as a priority area for the next three to five years. The GCC intergovernmental group includes nations, such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar. In a keynote speech made by Chinese President Xi Jinping, he notes that “China stands ready to work with GCC countries on remote sensing and communications satellite, space utilization, aerospace infrastructure, and the selection and training of astronauts.”
This progress has not gone unnoticed by the international space community, especially space-faring nations such as the United States. The US’s national space agency, NASA, also has plans for another Moon landing and further space explorations. Former Florida senator and astronaut notes “It is a fact: we’re in a space race. And it is true that we better watch out that they don’t get to a place on the moon under the guise of scientific research. And it is not beyond the realm of possibility that they say, ‘Keep out, we’re here, this is our territory.’”