China has announced that its Hainan Satellite Launch Centre, located in Wenchang, Hainan Province, in far Eastern China, is nearly complete, some five years after its construction began in September 2009. The base is needed for China’s large multi-module space station, to be constructed in orbit in 2022.
China’s space plans were partially revealed by Yang Liwei, deputy chief of the China Manned Space Agency and China’s first astronaut, at the 27th Congress of the Association of Space Explorers. He announced that the country’s second small manned space laboratory Tiangong-2 would be launched in 2016 which would be visited by Chinese astronauts (Taikonauts), while a much larger multi-module space station which, when complete, will be some 60 metric tons in mass, would be constructed in orbit starting in 2022.
The Hainan launch site, in being closer to the equator in order to make the best use of the Earth’s natural spin boost, will have a key role in these large module launches.
Meantime, under President Vladimir Putin’s direction, Russia is investing the rouble equivalent of US$1.3 billion to complete its own delayed Far Eastern launch site. Vostochny, which is located near Russia’s border with China. The launch base is aimed to give Russian independence from relying on having to launch from Baikonur, Kazakhstan.