|Country||People's Republic of China|
|Municipal seat||Beicheng Subdistrict (北城街道)|
|• Total||2,651 km2 (1,024 sq mi)|
|Elevation||1,542 m (5,059 ft)|
|• Density||48/km2 (120/sq mi)|
|Time zone||China Standard (UTC+8)|
|Literal meaning||Western Good|
Xichang lies in near the border of southern Sichuan and is in a rather mountainous region of the province. The city is just northeast of the prefecture-level city of Panzhihua. The Anning River, which runs into Yalong River, a tributary of the Jinsha River (Yangtze River headwaters), is the main river in the area.
Owing to its low latitude and high elevation, Xichang has a monsoon-influenced humid subtropical climate (Köppen Cwa) milder than the Sichuan Basin, with mild, very sunny and dry winters, and very warm, rainy summers. The monthly 24-hour average temperature ranges from 9.6 °C (49.3 °F) in January to 22.3 °C (72.1 °F) in July, and the annual mean is 16.90 °C (62.4 °F). Over 60% of the 1,010 mm (40 in) annual precipitation occurs from June to August. There are 2,367 hours of bright sunshine annually.
|Climate data for Xichang (1971−2000)|
|Average high °C (°F)||16.6
|Average low °C (°F)||4.1
|Precipitation mm (inches)||5.6
|Avg. precipitation days (≥ 0.1 mm)||2.2||3.0||4.7||8.7||14.7||19.2||18.6||16.3||17.0||12.9||5.7||2.7||125.7|
|Mean monthly sunshine hours||234.5||221.8||257.1||247.7||221.7||152.3||167.1||191.1||133.4||153.2||181.0||205.7||2,366.6|
|Percent possible sunshine||72||70||69||65||53||37||39||47||36||43||56||64||53|
|Source: China Meteorological Administration |
Xichang Railway Station (西昌站) is a main station on the railway line Kunming - Chengdu. Construction of a fast express train line has been completed, and has considerably shortenened travelling times to Panzhihua, Chengdu and Guangyuan. There are also some other stations in the city, including the Xichang North railway station and Xichang South railway station.
The city possesses its own airport, Xichang Qingshan Airport, which is attached to the spaceport by a railroad line and a motorway directly.
Xichang lies on the Motorway Kunming - Chengdu. The section to the south is open for traffic, but the mountainous section to Chengdu in the north is still under construction.
Xichang's spaceport is located about 64 kilometres (40 mi) northwest of the city and went into operation in 1984. Communications satellites are the most common payload to be inserted into orbit from the Xichang spaceport. A number of Long March 3 rockets have been launched from the spaceport.
As a result of the decision by the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration to stop sending commercial payloads into orbit following the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, a commercial launching service for communications satellites has thrived at the Xichang spaceport. Xichang has offered launching services for about half the cost of the competing European consortium's Ariane service.
On January 26, 1995, a Long March 2E rocket veered off course two seconds after take-off from the spaceport and exploded, killing at least six on the ground. On February 14, 1996, a similar failure occurred during the launch of Intelsat 708. The rocket veered severely off course right after clearing the launch tower and landed in a rural village. Xinhua News Agency initially reported six deaths and 56 injuries. The number of civilian deaths has been disputed.
- Select Committee of the United States House of Representatives (1999-01-03). "Satellite Launches in the PRC: Loral". U.S. National Security and Military/Commercial Concerns with the People's Republic of China. Retrieved 2007-06-30. (Congressional report discussing Intelsat 708 launch failure and possible technology transfer)
- "2002 State Dept. Charge Letter to Hughes". Softwar. 2005. Retrieved 2007-06-30. (Documents on Intelsat 708 and export controls, including State Department letter charging two companies with export law violations)
- Anatoly Zak (February 2013). "Disaster at Xichang". Air & Space Magazine. Retrieved 2013-04-21. (Article on the crash of a rocket carrying a commercial payload on February 15, 1996)
- A World Away From Beijing, By ROSS TERRILL. The New York Times, December 20, 1987.