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Xichang Space Launch Center

Last Modified: June 7, 2013
Other Name: 西昌卫星发射中心; Songlin Test Center; 27th Test & Training Base; Xichang Satellite Base
Location: The launch site is roughly 60 km north of Xichang City in Sichuan Province, approximately 535 km from Chengdu
Subordinate To: People’s Liberation Army’s 27th Test and Training Base, General Armament Department (GAD); China National Space Administration; China Satellite Launch and Control General (CLTC)[1]
Size: A sprawling complex that features multiple launch towers, command centers, living compounds, telemetry stations, and a component factory
Facility Status: Operational


Construction of the Xichang Space Launch Center (XSLC) began in 1970 but the site did not become operational until 1984. The facility’s location was chosen due to its high altitude, canyon topography, the May-October launch window weather, and low latitude.[2] The Xichang base operates two unique launch pads; Launch Complex 2 is used for the launch of LongMarch-2E (ChangZheng-2E) space launch vehicles (SLVs) while Launch Complex 3 is responsible for launching geostationary satellites onboard the LongMarch-3 series (ChangZheng-3) SLVs. Because all of China’s geostationary transfer orbit and geostationary Earth orbit (GEO) launches are from XSLC, it is China’s highest traffic space launch center.[3] The facility is capable of processing one launch vehicle and simultaneously storing another one.[4] 

XSLC is under the jurisdiction of the People’s Liberation Army’s 27th Test and Training Base, a subsidiary of the General Armament Department (GAD).[5] XSLC’s operations are broad and are not geographically limited to the launch site itself. The facility’s main command and control center is located several kilometers away in the city of Wanli and has data links with the Beijing Aerospace Control Center and the Xi’an Satellite Control Center. Additionally two tracking, telemetry and control (TT&C) centers are located in Yibin and Guiyang, and the primary headquarters as well as a third TT&C center are located in Xichang City proper.[6]

Since 1986 XSLC has successfully launched a wide range of both domestic and foreign satellites. In recent years the site has launched satellites in conjunction with the Nigerian, Indonesian, and Venezuelan governments.[7] When XSLC conducts a foreign launch service all satellite preparation operations prior to the actual mating of the payload with the SLV are conducting on site by the foreign customer. The payload and satellite mating process are handled by XSLC with the help of the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT). After the SLV and payload are mated the final launch preparations are conducted and managed by XSLC.[8]

XSLC was also the launch location of the interceptor missile that destroyed the Feng Yun 1C polar orbiting weather satellite on 11 January 2007.[9] Chinese government officials have hinted that when the Wenchang Space Launch Center on Hainan Island becomes operational in 2014 the Xichang base will be primarily tasked with conducting military launches.[10]

Sources:
[1] “Xichang Satellite Launch Centre,” Jane’s Space Systems and Industry, 13 December 2012.
[2] “Satellite Launch Centers,” China Internet Information Center, 18 October 2004, www.china.org.cn.
[3] “Xichang Satellite Launch Centre,” Jane’s Space Systems and Industry, 13 December 2012.
[4] “LM-3A Series Launch Vehicle User’s Manual,” China Great Wall Industry Corporation Publications, 1 January 2011, www.cn.cgwic.com.
[5] “Xichang Satellite Launch Centre,” Jane’s Space Systems and Industry, 13 December 2012.
[6] “LM-3A Series Launch Vehicle User’s Manual; Chapter 7 Launch Site Tracking, Telemetry and Control System (TT&C),” China Great Wall Industry Corporation Publications, 1 January 2011, www.cn.cgwic.com.
[7] “昌卫星发射中心40年建功祖国航天事业纪实 [Xichang Satellite Launch Center; 40 Years of Patriotic Activities in the Space Industry],” People’s Liberation Army Press Release, 1 October 2011, www.cn.cgwic.com.
[8] “LM-3A Series Launch Vehicle User’s Manual; Chapter 7 Launch Site,” China Great Wall Industry Corporation Publications, 1 January 2011, www.cn.cgwic.com.
[9] “China Confirms Satellite Downed,” BBC News, 23 January 2007, www.news.bbc.co.uk.
[10] “Minnie Chan, “New Satellite Launch Base Set for 2014 Hainan Liftoff,” South China Morning Post, 21 August 2008, via: www.lexisnexis.com.
 

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This material is produced independently for NTI by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of and has not been independently verified by NTI or its directors, officers, employees, or agents.

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