FAS | Space | Guide | China |||| Index | Search |

China and Materials Science in Space

As noted previously, since 1987 the PRC has utilized its FSW Earth observation recoverable capsule for both small materials science and life science experiments (Reference 321). The FSW-2 spacecraft which was first introduced in 1992 is also being offered to support microgravity research and with its greater capacity will probably succeed the FSW-1 as the principal carrier of such equipment. By the end of 1994, six FSW missions had carried domestic materials science experiments (References 789-791). The PRC has no announced plans for developing a larger, dedicated microgravity satellite, although a second generation, multi-purpose recoverable vehicle is under consideration.

Overall technical details of the FSW-1 and FSW-2 are provided in Section 4.3.9. Specific microgravity experiment limitations for the FSW-1 are 20 kg recoverable for piggyback payloads and 150 kg recoverable/150 kg nonrecoverable for a dedicated mission. Similarly, the FSW-2 offers a 300 kg recoverable payload capacity in addition to another non-recoverable 400-500 kg. Maximum flight time is approximately eight days for FSW-1 and 15 days for FSW-2.

Two drawbacks of the current FSW-1 design are the high re-entry loads (up to 11 g's) and the moderate landing velocity (13-14 m/s). The European COSIMA payload flown in 1988 experienced fractures of a significant portion of the crystals grown in space, apparently due to harsh reentry and landing conditions. The FSW2 will feature less stressing impact loads. On orbit microgravity conditions are on the order of 104 - 105 g.

The domestic Chinese materials science research program appears to be still in its infancy. The first acknowledged payload for national interests was flown on FSW-0 9 (August, 1987). A general description of the Chinese experiments referred to smelting and recrystallization of alloys and semiconductor materials. Specifically, the Lanzhou Physics Institute is said to have performed work with yttrium-barium-copper superconductor samples. The FSW-1 1 mission the following month (September, 1987) also carried crystal growthexperiments. Similar experiments were conducted on the 4th and 5th FSW-1 missions (1992 and 1993) and on both the FSW-2 flights (1992 and 1994).


321. ITAR-TASS News Agency, 4 February 1994.

789. "China Would Lease Payload Space on Its Recoverable Satellites", Aerospace Daily, 25 February 1987, pp. 286-287.

790. Zhongguo Xinwen She News Agency, 26 March 1993.

791. Zhu Yilin, "Space Microgravity Scientific Experiments in China", Spaceflight, October 1993, pp. 334-335.

Sources and Resources

FAS | Space | Guide | China |||| Index | Search |

Implemented by Christina Lindborg, 1997 Scoville Fellow
Maintained by Webmaster