President says Xichang should focus on military training, research and combat capabilities
President Xi Jinping, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, urged officers at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan province to further improve their space-launch capabilities.
Xi inspected the launch center on Saturday during his visit to Sichuan, touring launchpads and prelaunch facilities, People’s Liberation Army Daily reported on Monday.
He said officers at the center had carried out launches to lift the Chang’e lunar probes, Beidou navigation satellites and Tianzhou I cargo spacecraft, making important contributions to the country’s space programs.
The president told officers to strengthen the sense of duty and continue to make new contributions to the nation by dedicating themselves to their space endeavors, the report said.
Xi ordered the center to focus on military training and research, boost space launch and combat capabilities and integrate itself with the PLA’s joint operation system. He also stressed that reforms and innovation efforts must be pushed forward, requesting officers to make breakthroughs in key technology fields.
He talked with members of a ground control station on one of the Xisha Islands in the South China Sea and a prelaunch testing station in a coastal region through video, offering his best wishes and asking how they will spend Spring Festival, or Chinese Lunar New Year, which falls on Friday.
Xi also greeted all members of the PLA, Armed Police Force, militia and reserve forces, wishing them well for the most important festival in China.
Established in 1970, Xichang Satellite Launch Center is the primary space launch facility in China. It has performed more than 100 launches, placing about 120 craft into space, since the first mission in 1984.
All of the nation’s 33 Beidou navigation satellites were launched at the center. It also has been used to launch satellites for more than 10 countries, including Bolivia and Belarus.
The Wenchang Space Launch Center in the southernmost island province of Hainan, which has launched the new-generation Long March 5 and Long March 7 carrier rockets, is administered by the Xichang center.
China will carry out at least 40 space missions this year, doubling the number launched in 2017 and setting a record for the nation. The most launches to date were carried out in 2016, when 22 space missions blasted off.
The most eye-catching of the missions this year will be the third flight of China’s largest carrier rocket — Long March 5, following a failed mission in July — and the Chang’e 4 lunar landing mission that will put a robotic probe on the far side of the moon.