The following document lays out the PRC government’s priorities for the development of China’s civilian space infrastructure through 2025. The plan recommends that China reduce its reliance on foreign civilian satellite technology, but also advocates that China continue to use international exchanges and technology transfer as means to catch up to more technologically advanced countries in space infrastructure.
The Chinese source text is available online at:
Translator: Etcetera Language Group, Inc.
Editor: Ben Murphy, CSET Translation Lead
National Medium- to Long-Term Civilian Space Infrastructure Development Plan (2015-2025)
“Civilian space infrastructure” refers to integrated space-earth installations that use space resources mainly in order to provide a great number of users with remote sensing, communications, broadcasting, navigation, positioning, and other products and services. It is composed of space systems, surface systems, and other related systems that have complementary functions and that operate continuously and steadily. Civilian space infrastructure is both strategic infrastructure for modern informatized (信息化), intelligentized (智能化) society and an important method for propelling scientific development, transforming the mode of economic development, and thus achieving innovation-driven development. Is also an important support for national security. Accelerated construction of an autonomous and open (自主开放), safe and reliable national civilian space infrastructure that will operate continuously and steadily over the long term is a matter of great strategic significance to China’s modernization.
This plan was drawn up pursuant to the Outline of the 12th Five-Year Plan for Economic and Social Development in the People’s Republic of China, the National Plan for the Development of Strategic Emerging Industries during the “12th Five-Year Plan,“ and other major civilian economic and social development needs and overall related requirements in order to comprehensively promote healthy and rapid development of national civilian space infrastructure and to develop space resources on a large-scale, operations-oriented (业务化), industrialized basis.
I. Current Status and Trends
(i) Global space infrastructure is rapidly upgrading to the next generation.
Global space infrastructure is now entering a new stage of systematized development and globalized services. The development of satellite remote sensing for observation of the entire earth and of multi-satellite network observation has gradually led to the formation of a comprehensive, multi-dimensional, global integrated observation capability that combines high, medium, and low resolutions. All types of satellite communication and broadcasting business operations are trending towards integration and developing in the direction of broadband multimedia. Deployment of the next generation of mobile communication satellite constellations is intensifying. In satellite-based navigation, the era of the single U.S.-dominated Global Positioning System (GPS) is coming to an end as we enter a new era of competitive development involving the four major global systems of the United States, Russia, China, and Europe and the two major regional systems of Japan and India. The global satellite and applications industry is growing rapidly. The annual growth rate has been above 10% since the beginning of this century. To develop and perfect autonomous space infrastructure is increasingly becoming the strategic choice among developed countries and regions for pursuing leadership in space, for seizing the commanding heights of economic and S&T competition, for developing emerging industries, and for protecting security and interests.
(ii) China’s Space Infrastructure Is in a Critical Stage of Transformative Development.
After more than fifty years of construction, China’s space infrastructure has basically developed into a complete aerospace industrial system. Its satellite development and launch capabilities now place it among the world’s leaders. Its resource, marine, weather, environmental disaster mitigation and other remote sensing satellites already possess a certain level of operations-oriented service capability. The system for basic assurance for satellite communications, such as fixed communications and broadcasting, has already been built. The BeiDou satellite navigation system is already providing regional services, and satellite applications have become indispensable to innovative management, protecting resources and the environment, improving disaster mitigation capabilities, providing universal information services, and cultivating emerging industries. At the same time, China’s space infrastructure is in a critical period of transformative development. Our technological capabilities are making the transition from a primary focus on catching up with advanced international technologies to being mainly about independent innovation (自主创新). Our service mode is shifting from a primary focus on experimental applications to a predominantly operational service model. Industrial applications used to rely mainly on foreign data and methods, but are now coming to rely mainly on autonomous data (自主数据). Development mechanisms are undergoing a transition from government investments to an orientation towards diverse, commercial development. Grasping the transformative development opportunities and accelerating the construction of civilian space infrastructure are major strategic moves that will meet development needs, spur transformative upgrading, and foster high-end industry.
(iii) Economic and social development imposes pressing demands on space infrastructure construction.
As China’s economy and society undergo rapid development and its aerospace technology continually progresses, every field and every sector is placing wider and more urgent demands on the building of an autonomous and open civilian space infrastructure. Satellite remote sensing applications in fields relating to national territory, oceans, mapping, environmental protection, civilian administration, meteorology, agriculture, forestry, water conservancy, earthquakes, traffic, statistics, public security, energy, housing, and urban and rural construction require diverse, precise, and highly time-sensitive observation. Satellite communication radio and television applications in fields such as television, radio, education, culture, medical treatment, communications, traffic, diplomacy, and disaster response require wide ranges, large capacities, and high levels of security. Fields such as public safety, traffic, transportation, disaster prevention and mitigation, mapping, prospecting, and disaster response require satellite navigation applications that are higher-precision and have more integrated innovative services.
(iv) Coordinated construction of China’s civilian space infrastructure brooks no delay.
Whether it is a major national strategy such as supporting energy resource development, food safety, upholding maritime rights and interests, or coping with global climate change; or a wide-area refined application in the service of an important field of the national economy such as national territory resources, disaster prevention and mitigation, environmental protection, agriculture, forestry, water conservancy, traffic, or transportation; or the urgent need for high-quality universal information services and information consumption in culture, education, medicine, or other important fields involving people’s livelihoods, in every case the effort is highly reliant on the development of a continuously and steadily operating space infrastructure. As China moves rapidly forward with new industrialization, informatization, urbanization, and agricultural modernization, the need to accelerate coordinated construction of civilian space infrastructure, meet the important needs of national economic and social development, and elevate the new competitive advantages of China’s aerospace industry has become increasingly urgent.