Devon Island Expedition

Devon Island Expedition
This blog features educational updates on my Devon Island Expedition of July 14-20, 2007. Other sites:,

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

China's Space Activities

China is planning to launch their third manned space mission near the end of this year. They have announced a three-man crew and the mission will feature their first spacewalk. This should be interesting to watch.

In addition, China announced a robust launch schedule for 2008. Research and development continues too. Particularly intriguing is a spaceplane project. Some details were published recently, including this photo.

What do you suppose they are planning for a spaceplane? It's called Shenlong, which means Divine Dragon.

Leroy Chiao


BrianJBradley said...

I think any effort to break the surly bonds of earth is fantastic, as long as it remains true to exploration or science research. I'm sure it will be a fantastic flight; Godspeed to the Chinese crew. I hopefully won't be far behind getting my own taste for space, watching Atlantis' next launch attempt on February 7 :-)

EVW said...

What do you suppose they are planning for a spaceplane? It's called Shenlong, which means Divine Dragon.

I think there's a clue in the name. In parts of China, they've been finding "dragon bones" for over a thousand years. In the west, we call them dinosaurs.

"Divine Dragon" may be the Chinese equivalent of the X-20 DynaSoar (or possibly a DynaSoar forerunner). A Chinese spaceplane could be used for the same sort of missions the USAF once contemplated for DynaSoar: repairing, refueling, assembling, and upgrading unmanned satellites; resupplying space stations, serving as a reconnaissance "gapfiller"; conducing counterspace missions; and terrestrial targets.

One logical target would be US carrier battle groups. If China develops a system that can attack US carriers from space, the US would become much more reluctant to use carriers in situations that conflict with Chinese interests: to blockade or threaten a Chinese ally like North Korea, for example. A relatively small investment in military spaceplanes could neutralize tens of billions of dollars which the US has invested in carrier battle groups.

Unfortunately, the US has no response to such a system. Our military spaceplane effort is confined to design studies while the Bush Vision of Space Exploration goes "back to the future" with capsules and expendable rockets.