China will conduct more than 40 space-related activities in 2018, with analysts saying this shows that China's aerospace capabilities are strengthening in scientific research, commercial use and national defense.
China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, the main contractor of the Chinese space program, held a planning session for 2018, and announced that it will conduct 35 launches in 2018, including the heavy-lift carrier rocket Long March-5, Chang'e-4 lunar probe, and BeiDou navigation satellite network.
Another State-owned hi-tech enterprise, China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC), will also conduct several launches, including the Kuaizhou ("fast boat" in Chinese) series solid-fuelled carrier rocket, mainly for commercial purposes.
"The number of expected space-related activities in 2018 is unprecedented in Chinese history and will make China the country with the most space launches in 2018," said an anonymous aerospace expert.
"The task is ambitious, but not easy to be completed. Space launch missions are high-risk so the final results of these missions depend on the progress of these projects," he said.
"The Long March-5 has failed once in 2017, so it requires more tests, and its performance in 2018 will be closely monitored," said Song Zhongping, a military expert and TV commentator.
The Kuaizhou-11 solid-fuel carrier rocket is scheduled for its maiden launch in the first half of 2018, CASIC said. In January, the Kuaizhou-1A rocket sent three satellites into space in its first commercial mission, the Xinhua News Agency reported on Sunday.
China News Service reported that CASIC also signed a contract with Chinese clients to launch four Kuaizhou-1As at one time, and in the second half of 2018, the Kuaizhou-1A will try to launch four satellites into space in a week.
Science and Technology Daily reported that China plans to launch 18 satellites into space leading up to the formation of the Beidou-3 global navigation network, to provide basic services to countries alongside the Belt and Road initiative.
By 2020, 35 Beidou-3 satellites will be launched into space to form a first-class global navigation satellite system, Science and Technology Daily reported on Wednesday.
Although the Kuaizhou rocket is for commercial purposes, it can also be used for national defense or disaster relief, since it can quickly deliver multiple satellites into space, Song said. "This means it can also build a satellite network for communications, surveillance and navigation in a very short time, which is vital for military combat or disaster relief."