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Spaceports Around the World:

China's Numerous Active Spaceports

China spaceports map China's Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center
Shuang Cheng Tzu

The Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, founded in 1958, was China's first spaceport.

The launch center is north of Jiuquan City in Gansu Province in the Gobi desert 1,000 miles west of Beijing, in Inner Mongolia. Western nations called this site Shuang Cheng Tzu.

Jiuquan is a huge base at nearly 1,100 square miles. Its climate permits launches on nearly 300 days a year. However, flights were limited to southeastern launches into 57-70 degree orbits to avoid overflying Russia and Mongolia.

Most Chinese rocket tests and launches over the years have been at Jiuquan. The center blasts off atmospheric sounding rockets and Long March space rockets. It primarily sends satellites into low- and medium-altitude orbits with large orbital inclination angles.

Manned flights take off from this spaceport. Recoverable Earth observation and microgravity missions are launched from Jiuquan.

However, the site's geographical location means most Chinese commercial flights take off from other spaceports.

Jiuquan also tests medium- and long-range military missiles.

Many historic rocket launches have taken off from Jiuquan: China's Xichang Satellite Launch Center

The Xichang Satellite Launch Center is located in the Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture of the southwestern Sichuan Province, from where China launches powerful rockets and geostationary satellites.

Most television images of rockets blasting upward toward space are shot at this center with its favorable weather and picturesque scenes.

The launch center, built in 1978, is some 40 miles northwest of Xichang City. The first launch here was in 1984. Xichang launches Long March space rockets and offers better access to geostationary orbits than Jiuquan.

The local population lives near the launch pads. The center has two launch pads – one for sending geostationary communications satellites and meteorological satellites to space on Long March CZ-3 rockets and a second for blasting off other Long March CZ-2 and CZ-3 rockets.

The ideal time for launching satellites from Xichang is from October to May.

Xichang is remembered for having launched China's first experimental communications satellite, first operational communications satellite, and first combined communications and broadcast satellite.

Some notable launches from Xichang: China's Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center

Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center, in Kelan County of north China's Shanxi Province, started as test base for missiles and rockets too big to fly from Jiuquan. U.S. Space Command refers to the site as Wuzhai.

Taiyuan was founded in March 1966. Its single space launch pad opened in 1988 for launching Long March 4 space rockets ferrying remote sensing, meteorological, communications and reconnaissance satellites to polar orbits and geostationary orbits.

The launch center is in the mountains at an altitude of 5,000 feet. Dry weather there makes it a good site for the launch of sun-synchronous satellites.

China's first medium-range rocket was launched there in 1968. During the next 20 years, China launched more than 70 medium and long range rockets from Taiyuan.

Some landmark examples for Taiyuan: China's Hainan Island Satellite Launch Center

Hainan Island is off the southern coast of China, separating the South China Sea from the Gulf of Tongking. It is southeast of Hanoi, Vietnam, across the Gulf of Tongking.

The Hainan Space Base, only 19 degrees north of the equator, is used for low-latitude, low-altitude space research launches. Initially, rockets blasting off from Hainan flew only to a height of about 74 miles above Earth.

The Hainan Space Base could become the Hainan Island Satellite Launch Center if the provincial government has its way. Officials are working to persuade the Chinese central government to approve the massive project in Wenchang on the northeast side of the island province, according to China Daily in 2005.

Back on December 19, 1988, the PRC launched a new space rocket from the Hainan Island base. The rocket, known as Weaver Girl 1, named after a Chinese legend, ferried a recoverable satellite to space.

The payload remained in space 2.5 hours, then returned to Earth 40 miles from the launch site. The blast off was the first time Chinese scientists had researched Earth's atmosphere from a low-latitude equatorial launch site.

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