China’s biggest space contractor, the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. (CASC), led a record-breaking year of launches in 2021. And CASC isn’t slowing down—the contractor announced on social media Saturday that it has 40 launches planned for 2022, including six that will finish construction of the Tiangong space station.
The last 365 days: CASC’s Long March rockets launched 48 out of China’s 55 total space launches in 2021. That comfortably beat the country’s past record of 39 launches in a single year, reached in 2018 and 2020. Some highlights from 2021 include:
- Launching Tianhe, the country’s space station core module, in April.
- Planning and beginning construction on two new spaceports, including a ship for sea launches and a commercial spaceport in Ningbo.
- Two crewed spaceflights aboard Long March 2F rockets—the first time China has launched two crewed flights in a single year.
The next 365: The agency has 40 launches planned for the new year. The six launches that aim to complete the Tiangong space station: two cargo missions, two crewed missions delivering astronauts to the station, and the addition of the two laboratory cabin modules Wentian and Mengtian. Once completed, Tiangong is meant to continue operations for at least 10 years.
- Also on the docket: the second launch of the Long March 8 and the first launch of the Long March 6A.
CASC doesn’t reveal many hints about the payloads for its upcoming missions, instead electing to selectively publish a few details after the fact. We can most likely expect the agency to launch communications, weather, and more classified test satellites, in keeping with 2021 trends.