Keeping its spot among the top countries competing in the space race, China is planning to launch 30 missions this year, according to information from the state-run China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp., reported by the Xinhua news agency.
Last year, China outpaced the United States in the number of national launches it had completed through the middle of December, according to a report in the MIT Technology Review. Public and private Chinese companies launched 35 missions that were reported to the public through 2018 compared to 30 from the U.S., wrote Joan Johnson-Freese, a professor of national security affairs at the Naval War College.
“Privately funded space startups are changing China’s space industry,” Johnson-Freese wrote at the time. “And even without their help, China is poised to become a space power on par with the United States.”
Major missions for 2019 will include the Long March-5 large carrier rocket, whose last launch was marred by malfunction. If the new Long March launch goes well, China will stage another flight to launch a probe designed to bring lunar samples back to Earth at the end of 2019.
China will also send still another version of the Long March rocket to lay the groundwork for the country’s private space station.
While the bulk of China’s activity in space is being handled through government ministries and state-owned companies, private companies are starting to make their mark, as well.
LandSpace, OneSpace and iSpace form a triumvirate of privately held Chinese companies that are all developing launch vehicles and planning to carry payloads to space.
In all, using some back of the napkin math and the calendar of launches available at Spaceflight Insider, there were roughly 80 major rocket launches scheduled.
Those figures mean that over once a week a rocket blasted off to deliver some sort of payload to a place above the atmosphere. RocketLab put its first commercial payload into orbit in November, and launched a second rocket the following month. Meanwhile, SpaceX, the darling of the private space industry, launched 21 rockets itself.