Early Rocketry Research
The Chinese political leadership took the decision to develop an independent nuclear deterrence capability in the mid-1950s. The development of the missile delivery system was led by Dr Qian Xuesen, father of the Chinese missile and space programme. The Soviet Union transferred its missile technology to China and also helped the Chinese to build its missile R&D and testing facilities.
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, the Chinese missile and space industry achieved a series of technological breakthroughs, introducing missile systems with increasing range and performance. These achievements paved the way for the creation of the country’s space programme in the late 1960s.
Long March Launch Vehicles
China’s early liquid-fuelled space launch vehicles were derived from the DF-4 intermediate-range ballistic missile and DF-5 intercontinental ballistic missile. These later evolved into a family of space launch vehicles for different orbital missions and payload types, most of which remain operational today.
Chinese scientists began to develop the solid-fuelled rocket technology in the late 1950s. A series of solid-fuelled sounding rocket launches were conducted in the 1960s for early space exploration. The first operational solid-fuelled ballistic missile was introduced in the 1980s.
New-Generation Space Launch Vehicles
China developed the new-generation liquid-fuelled rocket engines burning the non-toxic RP-1 and cryogenic propellants in the 2000s. These successes led to the introduction of a new-generation of space launch vehicles, which will eventually replace the existing Long March 2/3/4 families for orbital launch missions.