China Wants to Rival NASA With 100 Space Launches in One Year

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China has set a target of launching 100 space missions in 2024 as it bids to rival the U.S. in a new space race.

China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation announced in a press conference Monday that Beijing has set an ambitious goal of expanding its footprint in space—including establishing the country’s first commercial space launch site, in the province of Hainan.

The leading force in China’s space endeavors, CASC published the “Blue Book,” a report highlighting China’s space missions in 2023 and the missions planned for 2024.

“The ‘Blue Book’ pointed out that China’s aerospace industry is expected to carry out about 100 launch missions throughout the year in 2024, which is expected to set a new record,” the Chinese state media outlet China Daily reported, citing Monday’s press conference.

The launches will also include satellite deployments aimed at forming constellations and enhancing China’s infrastructure in space, CASC said, according to Xinhua, China’s official state news agency.

Beijing’s push to expand its presence in space comes as outer space has emerged as an arena of strategic competition between great powers. Xi Jinping, China’s leader, has personally overseen the launches and expansion of China’s space station, Tiangong.

China’s space program has made considerable strides, including sending probes to distant planets and extending the duration of crewed missions. These efforts are part of a broader strategy to establish a permanent presence in orbit and, eventually, on the moon.

“The construction of the space station is a milestone in China’s space industry, which will make pioneering contributions to the peaceful use of space by humanity,” Xi said while speaking with three astronauts sent into space aboard the Shenzhou-12 spaceship, Xinhua reported in May 2022.

In 2023, China has achieved a new milestone, carrying out 67 space launch missions, CASC said Monday, which ranks it second to the U.S. globally.

The nation successfully placed 221 spacecraft into orbit, setting a record for the country, CASC said, according to Xinhua.

Seventy-two rockets were launched from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in 2023, many of them by SpaceX, according to Florida Today.

Newsweek contacted the China National Space Administration and NASA via email for comment.

NASA continues its high-profile space launch projects, including the Artemis program, which aims to return humans to the moon by 2026. NASA’s 2024 launch slate includes Europa Clipper—which will explore Jupiter’s fourth-largest moon, Europa—and Viper, a mission to search for water on Earth’s moon.

A notable achievement by CASC in 2023 was the launch of two new satellites for the BeiDou navigation system, demonstrating China’s growing expertise in global positioning technology, Space News reported in December.

The BeiDou system, now in its third generation, competes with other global navigation systems, such as the United States’ GPS, Europe’s Galileo and Russia’s GLONASS. This development showcases China’s technological capabilities and its ambition to play a leading role in global navigation and positioning services.

People watch the first launch of Gravity-1 from a sea-based platform off the coast of Haiyang, Shandong province, on January 11. China wants to rival the U.S. with 100 space launches this year.

Tang Ke/Getty Images News/WireImage

CASC aims to “realize the extension of BeiDou applications to system integration and value-added services; give full play to CASC’s advantages in space and ground integration and comprehensive application advantages in satellite communications, navigation, and remote sensing; continue to integrate satellite applications into emerging fields; and support key areas [of] economic development,” China Daily reported.

The construction of China’s first commercial spacecraft launch site—in Wenchang, located in the island province of Hainan—further illustrates the country’s commitment to expanding its space industry.