Wenchang Satellite Launch Center (WSLC), located near Wenchang on the north-east coast of Hainan Island, is a former sub-orbital test center currently under upgrade. It is the fourth and southernmost space vehicle launch facility (spaceport) of the People's Republic of China. It has been specially selected for its low latitude, which is only 19 degrees north of the equator, which will allow for a substantial increase in payload, necessary for the future manned program, space station and deep space exploration program. Furthermore, it will be capable of launching the new heavy lift Long March 5 booster currently under development.
Unlike the space centers on the mainland whose rail tracks are too narrow to transport the new five meter core boosters, Wenchang will use its sea port for deliveries. Initial launches of the CZ-5 booster from Wenchang were, as of early 2008, expected in 2014, one year after the intended commissioning of the Wenchang Center.
Political considerations have postponed the construction of a large space center in Hainan many times as it was considered too vulnerable to foreign attack. Following the end of the Cold War and the easing of global tensions, new projects for its development were submitted.
To date, five launches have taken place from this center, starting in 1988 with the Zhinü-1 suborbital launch vehicle.
According to a report by China Central Television (CCTV), the construction of the new Wenchang Satellite Launch Center was officially approved by the State Council and the Central Military Commission of the People's Republic of China on September 22, 2007.
In late October 2007, the Mayor of Wenchang City announced that 1,200 hectares (3,000 acres) of land would be obtained for the center and more than 6,000 people, mostly from the villages of Longlou (龙楼, 19°39′07″N 110°57′47″E / 19.652°N 110.963°E) and Dongjiao (东郊, 19°34′01″N 110°52′01″E / 19.567°N 110.867°E) would be relocated as a consequence.
A subsequent article in November 2007 indicated that the actual launch site would be near Longlou, while a space-science theme park would be built near Dongjiao. Satellite photography of April, 2011 shows a new clearing 19°36′50″N 110°57′05″E / 19.6139°N 110.9513°E near the beach that is consistent with artist's concept pictures of the CZ-5 launch pad that have been displayed in China.
- A total of three launch pads are planned.
References and Further reading