Comparison of Asian national space programs

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Several Asian countries have space programs and are actively competing to achieve scientific and technological advancements in space, a situation sometimes referred to as the Asian space race in the popular media[1] as a reference to the earlier Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union. Like the previous space race, issues involved in the current push to space include national security, which has spurred many countries to send artificial satellites as well as humans into Earth orbit and beyond.[2] A number of Asian countries are seen as contenders in the ongoing race to be the pre-eminent power in space.[3]

Asian space powers[edit]

Of the ten countries that have independently successfully launched a satellite into orbit, six countries: Japan (1970), China (1970), India (1980), Israel (1988), Iran (2009) and North Korea (2012), are Asian. Of six major space powers in world which have full launch capabilities to transfer heavy payloads in geosynchronous orbits, can launch multiple and recoverable satellites, deploy cryogenic engines and operate extraterrestrial exploration missions, three (China, India and Japan) are Asian.

China's first manned spacecraft entered orbit in October 2003, making China the first Asian nation to send a human into space.[4] India expects to send Vyomnauts to space in the Gaganyaan capsule by 2022.[5]

While the achievements of space programs run by the main Asian space players (China, India, and Japan) pale in comparison to the milestones set by the former Soviet Union and the United States, some experts believe Asia may soon lead the world in space exploration.[6] Each Asian spacefaring country has its own dominance in specific aerospace aspect. For instance, the first Chinese manned spaceflight, in 2003, marked the beginning of a space race in the region and India is the first Asian country to successfully launch a Mars orbiter (and the first country in the world to do so in its first attempt). At the same time, the existence of a space race in Asia is still debated due to the non-concurrence of space milestone events like there was for the United States and the Soviet Union. Japan for example was the first power on Earth to get a sample return mission from an asteroid. There was however some concurrence between China and India to see which of those two could be the first to launch a probe to the Earth's moon back in the late 2000s decade. China, for example, denies that there is an Asian space race.[7] In January 2007 China became the first Asian military-space power to send an anti-satellite missile into orbit, to destroy an aging Chinese Feng Yun 1C weather satellite in polar orbit. The resulting explosion sent a wave of debris hurtling through space at more than 6 miles per second.[8][9] India did the same in 2019 by shooting down its own satellite Microsat-R. The operation was named Mission Shakti[10] A month later, Japan's space agency launched an experimental communications satellite designed to enable super high-speed data transmission in remote areas.[8]

After successful achievement of geostationary technology, India's ISRO launched its first Moon mission, Chandrayaan-1 in October 2008, which discovered ice water on the Moon.[11] India then launched on 5 November 2013 its maiden interplanetary mission, the Mars Orbiter Mission. The primary objective is to determine Mars' atmospheric composition and attempt to detect methane. The spacecraft completed its journey on 24 September 2014 when it entered its intended orbit around Mars, making India the first Asian country to successfully place a Mars orbiter and the only country in history to do so in the first attempt. ISRO became the fourth space agency in the world to send a spacecraft to Mars, only behind NASA, ROSCOSMOS, and ESA. China & India have tested their anti- satellite weapons respectively in 2007 and 2019, making them only countries after US & USSR/Russia to possess ASAT weapons.

In addition to increasing national pride, countries are commercially motivated to operate in space. Commercial satellites are launched for communications, weather forecasting, and atmospheric research. According to a report by the Space Frontier Foundation released in 2006, the "space economy" is estimated to be worth about $180 billion, with more than 60% of space-related economic activity coming from commercial goods and services.[2] China and India propose the initiation of a commercial launch service.

China[edit]

Several rockets of the Long March family

China has a space program with an independent human spaceflight capability. It has developed a sizable family of successful Long March rockets. It has launched two lunar orbiters, Chang'e 1 and Chang'e 2. On 2 December 2013, China launched a modified Long March 3B rocket, with Chang'e 3 Moon lander and its rover Yutu on-board toward the Moon and successfully performed soft landing and rover operations, becoming the third country to do so.[12] It also has plans to retrieve samples by late 2017. In 2011, China embarked on a program to establish a manned space station, starting with the launch of Tiangong 1 and followed by Tiangong 2 in 2016. China attempted to send a Mars orbiter (Yinghuo-1) in 2011 on a joint mission with Russia, which failed to leave Earth orbit. Nevertheless, the 2020 Chinese Mars Mission with an orbiter, a lander and a rover has been approved by the government and is aiming a launch date in the year 2020.[13] China has collaborative projects with Russia, ESA, and Brazil, and has launched commercial satellites for other countries. Some analysts suggest that the Chinese space program is linked to the nation's efforts at developing advanced military technology.[14]

China's advanced technology is the result of the integration of various related technological experiences. Early Chinese satellites, such as the FSW series, have undergone many atmospheric reentry tests. In the 1990s China had commercial launches, resulting in more launch experiences and a high success rate after the 1990s. China has aimed to undertake scientific development in fields like Solar System exploration. China's Shenzhou 7 spacecraft successfully performed an EVA in September 2008. China's Shenzhou 9 spacecraft successfully performed a manned docking in June 2012. Furthermore, China's Chang'e 2 explorer became the first object to reach Sun-Earth Lagrangian point in August 2011 and also the first probe to explore both Moon and asteroid by making a flyby of the asteroid 4179 Toutatis. China has launched DAMPE, the most capable dark matter explorer to date in 2015, and world's first quantum communication satellite QUESS in 2016.

India[edit]

India's interest in space travel began in the early 1960s, when scientists launched a Nike-Apache rocket from TERLS, Kerala.[15][16] Under Vikram Sarabhai, the program focused on the practical uses of space in increasing the standard of living. Remote sensing and communications satellites were placed into orbit.[17]

The first Indian to travel in space was Rakesh Sharma, who flew aboard Soyuz T-11, launched April 2, 1984, from erstwhile USSR.[18]

Just a few days after China said that it would send a human into orbit in the second half of 2003, Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee publicly urged his country's scientists to work towards sending a man to the Moon.[19] India successfully sent its first probe to the Moon known as Chandrayaan-1 in October 2008 which helped in finding the presence of water in the Moon [20] and has already launched its second Moon mission, Chandrayaan-2 to the south pole of the Moon.[21][22]

ISRO launched its Mars Orbiter Mission on November 5, 2013 (informally called "Mangalyaan") which successfully entered into the orbit around Mars on 24 September 2014. India is the first in Asia and fourth in the world to perform a successful Mars mission. It is also the only one to do so on the first attempt and at a record low cost of $74 million.[23]

ISRO has demonstrated its re-entry technology and till date has launched as many as 175 foreign satellites belonging to global customers from 20 countries including US, Germany, France, Japan, Canada, U.K. All of these have been launched successfully by PSLVs so far, gaining significant expertise in space technologies. In June 2016, India set a record by launching 20 satellites simultaneously.[24] The PSLVs are also one of world's most reliable launch vehicles which clocked its 35th successful mission (39 total) in a row as of February 2017, thus having success rate of nearly 90%.

India broke the world record by successfully placing 104 satellites (almost tripling the Russian record of 37) in Earth Orbit on 15 February 2017 on a single rocket launch (PSLV-C37).[25][26]

Recent reports indicate that human spaceflight is planned with a spacecraft called Gaganyaan for December 2021 on a home-grown GSLV-III rocket.[27] ISRO is also planning to send orbiters to Venus, Mars and Jupiter or comets and asteroids in the near future. India has successfully tested anti-satellite missile, becoming the fourth country to do so.

Japan[edit]

The H-IIA F11 launch vehicle lifts off from Tanegashima Space Center in Japan

Japan has been cooperating with the United States on missile defence since 1999. North Korean nuclear and Chinese military programs represent a serious issue for Japan's foreign relations.[28] Japan is working on military and civilian space technologies, developing missile defence systems, new generations of military spy satellites, and planning for manned stations on the Moon.[29] Japan started to construct spy satellites after North Korea test fired a Taepodong missile over Japan in 1998. The North Korean government claimed the missile was merely launching a satellite to space, and accused Japan of causing an arms race.[30] The Japanese constitution adopted after World War II limits military activities to defensive operations. On May 2007 Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called for a bold review of the Japanese Constitution to allow the country to take a larger role in global security and foster a revival of national pride.[31] Japan has not yet developed its own manned spacecraft and does not have a program in place to develop one. The Japanese space shuttle HOPE-X, to be launched by the conventional space launcher H-II, was developed but the program was postponed and eventually cancelled. Then the simpler manned capsule Fuji was proposed but not adopted. Pioneer projects of single-stage to orbit, reusable launch vehicle horizontal takeoff and landing ASSTS and vertical takeoff and landing Kankoh-maru were developed but have not been adopted. A more conservative new (JAXA manned spacecraft) project is proposed to launch by 2025 as part of the Japanese plan to send manned missions to the Moon. Shin'ya Matsuura [ja] is doubtful about the Japanese manned Moon project, and suspects the project is a euphemism for participation in the American Constellation program.[32] JAXA planned to send a humanoid robot (such as ASIMO) to the Moon.[32][when?]

Other players[edit]

Iran[edit]

Iranian Simorgh (rocket) SLV

Iran has developed its own satellite launch vehicle, named the Safir SLV, based on the Shahab series of IRBMs. On 2 February 2009, Iranian state television reported that Iran's first domestically made satellite Omid (from the Persian امید, meaning "Hope") had been successfully launched into low Earth orbit by a version of Iran's Safir rocket, the Safir-2.[33] The launch coincided with the 30th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution. Iran is also developing a new launch vehicle Simorgh (rocket).

Israel[edit]

Shavit, the Israeli orbital launch system

Israel became the tenth country in the world to build its own satellite and launch it with its own launcher on 19 September 1988. Israel launched its first satellite, Ofeq-1, using an Israeli-built Shavit three-stage launch vehicle.[34] The launching was the high point of a process that began in 1983 with the establishment of the Israel Space Agency under the aegis of the Ministry of Science. Space research by university-based scientists began in the 1960s, providing a ready-made pool of experts for Israel's foray into space. Since then, local universities, research institutes, and private industry, backed by the Israel Space Agency, have made progress in space technology. The agency's role is to support "private and academic space projects, coordinate their efforts, initiate and develop international relations and projects, head integrative projects involving different bodies, and create public awareness for the importance of space development."[35]

North Korea[edit]

North Korea has many years of experience with rocket technology, which it has passed along to Pakistan and other countries. On December 12, 2012, North Korea placed its first satellite in orbit with the launch of Kwangmyŏngsŏng-3 Unit 2. On 12 March 2009 North Korea signed the Outer Space Treaty and the Registration Convention,[36] after a previous declaration of preparations for the launch of Kwangmyongsong-2. North Korea twice announced satellite launches: Kwangmyŏngsŏng-1 on 31 August 1998 and Kwangmyŏngsŏng-2 on 5 April 2009. Neither of these claims were confirmed by the rest of the world, but the United States and South Korea believe there were tests of military ballistic missiles. The North Korean space agency is the Korean Committee of Space Technology, which operates the Musudan-ri and Tongch'ang-dong Space Launch Center rocket launching sites and has developed the Baekdusan-1 and Unha (Baekdusan-2) space launchers and Kwangmyŏngsŏng satellites. In 2009 North Korea announced several future space projects, including manned space flights and the development of a manned partially reusable launch vehicle.[37] The successor to the Korean Committee of Space Technology, National Aerospace Development Administration (NADA) successfully launched an Unha-3 launch vehicle in February 2016, placing the Kwangmyŏngsŏng-4 satellite in orbit.

Indonesia[edit]

LAPAN is responsible for long-term civilian and military aerospace research Indonesia. On July 1976, Indonesia became the first developing country to operate its own domestic satellite system.[38] On October 1985, Indonesian scientist, Pratiwi Sudarmono was selected to take part in the NASA Space Shuttle missions STS-61-H as a Payload Specialist. Taufik Akbar was her backup on the mission. However, after the Challenger disaster the deployment of commercial satellites like the Indonesian Palapa B-3 planned for the STS-61-H mission was canceled, thus the mission never took place. The satellite was later launched with a Delta rocket.[39] For over two decades, Indonesia has managed satellites and domain-developed small scientific-technology satellites LAPAN and telecommunication satellites Palapa, which were built by Hughes (now Boeing Satellite Systems) and launched from the US on Delta rockets or from French Guiana using Ariane 4 and Ariane 5 rockets. It has also developed sounding rockets and has been trying to develop small orbital space launchers. The LAPAN A1 in 2007 and LAPAN A2 satellites were launched by India in 2015.[40] Indonesia has undertaken programs to develop and use their own small space launch vehicle Pengorbitan (RPS-420).[41][42]

South Korea[edit]

South Korea is a newer player in the Asian space race.[43] In August 2006 South Korea launched its first military communications satellite, the Mugunghwa-5. The satellite was placed in geosynchronous orbit and collects surveillance information about North Korea.[44] The South Korean government is spending hundreds of millions of dollars in space technology and was due to launch its first space launcher, the Korea Space Launch Vehicle, in 2008.[45][needs update] South Korea's government justifies the cost for reasons of long-term commercial benefits and national pride. South Korea has long seen North Korea's significantly longer missile range as a serious threat to its national security. With the nation's first astronaut launched into space, Lee So-yeon, South Korea gained confidence in entering the Asian space race. They have completed the construction of Naro Space Center. South Korea is now attempting to build satellites and rockets with local technology.[46] South Korea is pursuing a space program that could defend the peninsula while lessening their dependency on the United States.

Turkey[edit]

As of 2012 Turkey was developing its own military satellite. The first Göktürk satellite is planned to be launched in 2013.[needs update] The Turkish satellite is planned to be capable of taking satellite images of greater than two meters per pixel resolution, thus making Turkey the second nation in the world capable of such a feat, after the United States.[47] Turkey is also developing an orbital launch system known as UFS.[48]

Other nations and regions[edit]

Other minor spacefaring countries are Bangladesh, Malaysia and Pakistan. On 7 June 1962, with the launch of the Rehbar-I rocket, Pakistan became the tenth country in the world to successfully conduct the launch of an unmanned spacecraft. SUPARCO has launched a number of sounding rockets. Pakistan's first satellite, Badr-I was launched from China in 1990, Badr-B in 2001 from Baikonur Cosmodrome using a Ukrainian Zenit-2 rocket, followed by Paksat-1R in 2011 which was contracted and actually built and launched by China, was Pakistan's first communication satellite.[49] Under its Space programme 2040, Pakistan aims to operate five geostationary and six low earth orbit satellites. Development of any satellite launch vehicle is not planned.

With the launch of Bangabandhu-1 satellite purchased abroad, Bangladesh began operating its first communication satellite in 2018. Bangladesh Space Agency intends to launch satellites after 2020. Bangladesh's government has stressed that the country seeks an "entirely peaceful and commercial" role in space.[50]

Timeline of national firsts[edit]

Also see the section: Comparison of key technologies

     – Indigenous manned missions          – Manned missions      – Lunar or Interplanetary missions      – Other missions
Date Nation Name Asian First World achievements
4 October 1957  Soviet Union
(now under  Kazakhstan)
Baikonur Cosmodrome Satellite launch pad The first satellite, Sputnik 1, was launched.
11 February 1970  Japan Ohsumi Satellite The smallest satellite launch vehicle (L-4S; 9.4t weight, 1.4m diameter)
24 February 1975  Japan Taiyo Solar probe
26 October 1975  China FSW-0 Satellite recovery[51]
26 October 1975  China FSW-0:
– 10m (1975)
FSW-1B:
– 4m (1992)[52]
Beidou:
– 0.5m (till 2007)[53]
High resolution imaging satellite
8 July 1976  Indonesia Palapa A1 Geosynchronous satellite (launched by NASA)
23 February 1977  Japan N-I Geosynchronous launch
21 February 1979  Japan Hakucho Space observatory
23 July 1980  Vietnam Phạm Tuân Asian in space (Soyuz 37)
20 September 1981  China FB-1 Simultaneous satellite launch[54]
8 January 1985  Japan Sakigake Leaving Earth orbit The first interplanetary launch by solid rocket (M-3SII)
19 March 1990  Japan Hagoromo Reach lunar orbit (assumed)
7 April 1990  China CZ-3 Commercial launch (AsiaSat 1)
10 April 1993  Japan Hiten Intentional lunar impact The first aerobraking test[55]
8 July 1994  Japan Chiaki Mukai Asian woman in space (STS-65)
19 November 1997  Japan Takao Doi Spacework (STS-87)
28 November 1997  Japan ETS-VII Rendezvous docking
3 July 1998  Japan Nozomi Martian mission (Failure)
30 October 2000  China Beidou Satellite navigation system
10 September 2002  Japan Kodama[56] Data relay satellite (with ESA)
15 October 2003  China Yang Liwei First man in space launched by an Asian space program
15 October 2003  China Shenzhou 5 Manned spacecraft
19 November 2005  Japan Hayabusa Soft-landed probe on extraterrestrial object The first asteroid ascent, sample return from an asteroid
11 January 2007  China FY-1C ASAT test Highest in history with altitude 865 km, also the fastest with speed 18k miles
23 February 2008  Japan WINDS Internet satellite The fastest internet satellite[57]
11 March 2008  Japan Japanese Experiment Module Manned foundations in space (STS-123, STS-124, STS-127) The world's largest pressurized volume in space[58]
25 April 2008  China Tianlian I Indigenous Tracking & Data Relay Satellite System
First TDRS system to support manned missions
27 September 2008  China Zhai Zhigang (Shenzhou 7) Indigenous EVA
27 September 2008  China BanXing Manned spacecraft-launched satellite
14 November 2008  India Moon Impact Probe Probe designed for Lunar impact Discovered water on the Moon before impact.[59][60]
23 January 2009  Japan GOSAT Greenhouse gas explorer[61]
20 May 2010  Japan Akatsuki First Asian Venus mission
21 May 2010  Japan IKAROS Solar sail The first spacecraft to successfully demonstrate solar-sail technology in interplanetary space
25 August 2011  China Chang'e 2 Lunar probe with extended deep space missions (asteroid mission to 4179 Toutatis).
29 September 2011  China Tiangong-1 First Asian Space station
18 June 2012  China Shenzhou 9 First manned space docking by an Asian country (with Tiangong-1)
14 December 2013  China Chang'e 3/Yutu First lunar soft landing and lunar rover by an Asian country.
24 September 2014  India Mars Orbiter Mission First successful Mars mission by an Asian country First Martian mission by a country to succeed on the first attempt. Third country to do so after the USSR and the USA.
15 February 2017  India PSLV-C37 First to successfully launch and deploy 104 satellites simultaneously from a single rocket (PSLV -C37).[62][63] First country in the world to launch more than 100 satellites at one go.
3 January 2019  China Chang'e 4 First soft landing on the far side of the Moon First soft landing on the far side of the Moon by any country. Landed with Yutu-2 rover.

Other achievements[edit]

Timeline of the heaviest satellite launch vehicle in Asia
First success LEO GTO / GEO Notes
11 Feb 1970 Japan L-4S (26 kg) First launch was 1966 (failed 4 times).
24 Apr 1970 China CZ-1 (0.3 t) First launch failed in 1969.
26 Jul 1975 China FB-1 (2.5 t) Suborbital flight was performed in 1972.
ChinaCZ-2A (LEO 2t) failed in 1974.
16 Jul 1990 China CZ-2E (LEO 9.2 t / GTO 3.5 t)[citation needed]
20 Aug 1997 China CZ-3B (LEO 12 t / GTO 5.2 t)[citation needed]
18 Dec 2006 Japan H-IIA204 (LEO 15 t / GTO 5.8 t)[citation needed]
10 Sep 2009 Japan H-IIB (LEO 19 t / GTO 8 t)[citation needed]
3 Nov 2016 Japan H-IIB (LEO 19 t) China CZ-5 (GTO 14 t)[64]

Comparison of key technologies[edit]

Records of each country are listed by chronological order unless otherwise noted.

First independent launches (rocket/satellite)
Payloads in orbit by number (active/total, first five as of May 2019)[65]
First indigenous low Earth orbit manned spaceflights
Independent human spaceflights (total persons/person flights)
First independent extravehicular activity
First independent unmanned/manned Space rendezvous
Multi-satellite simultaneous launches (by number)
First flight of space shuttles
Including shuttle-shaped hypersonic reentry vehicles reach to space.
First space habitation module
First space laboratory
First orbiters to the Moon
First intentional Moon landings
  •  Japan – 1993 – Hiten (controlled impact at end of its mission)
  •  India – 2008 – MIP (Moon impactor)
  •  China – 2009 – Chang'e 1 (controlled impact at end of its mission)
First Lunar soft landings/Lunar rovers
Orbiters to Mars
Intentional Mars landing
Orbiter to Venus
Asteroid explorations
Capability of Launch Vehicle (in active, payload to LEO)
Capability of Launch Vehicle (in active, payload to GTO)
Cryogenic rocket engine
Solid-fuel rocket
  •  India - S-200, Burn time 130s, Isp (Vac.):274.5s, Thrust (Vac.):5,150 kN.
  •  Japan - SRB-A, Burn time 100s, Isp (Vac.):280s, Thrust (Vac.):2,260 kN.
  •  Israel - Shavit's First Stage, Burn time 82s, Isp (Vac.):280s, Thrust (Vac.):1650.2 kN.
  •  China - Kuaizhou
  •  China - Long March 11
Optical satellite imagery (by highest available resolution)
Radar satellite imagery (by resolution)
Communications satellite technology
  •  China - 2011 - NIGCOMSAT 1R[91] 5,150 kg, 28 transponders, Solar Array provide a power of 10.5 kW.
  •  Japan - 2011 - ST-2[92] 5,090 kg, 51 transporters[93]
  •  India - 2014 - GSAT-16 with 48 transponders, 2018 - GSAT-11 5,854 kg, 40 transponders, Solar Array provide a power of 13.6 kW,
Resupply spacecraft (launch payload)
Solar Sail spacecraft
Spacecraft powered by indigenous plasma thrusters (power, thrust, specific impulse)
Spacecraft powered by indigenous ion thrusters (power, thrust, specific impulse)
Spacecraft powered by indigenous Hall thrusters (power, thrust, specific impulse)
  •  South Korea - 2013 - DubaiSat-2, 0.3 kW, 7 mN, 1000 s
  •  China - 2016 - Shijian 17 (HEP-100MF), 1.4 kW, ? mN, 1850 s (magnetic focusing Hall thruster)
  •  China - 2016 - Shijian 17 (LHT-100), 1.35 kW, 80 mN, 1600 s
Other comparable technologies
Nation Multi-satellite simultaneous launches Launch of foreign satellite Geostationary launches Atmos-
pheric reentry
Rendezvous dockings in orbit Satellite navigation system Data relay satellites Martian missions Solar Space Missions Space observatories
 China 1981
(FB-1)[97]
3 Sats
1990
CZ-2E
Pakistan science satellite
1984
Dong Fang Hong 02
(by CZ-3)
1975
FSW-0
2011
Tiangong 1
2000
Beidou
2008
Tianlian I
2011
Yinghuo-1
(Failure)
(planned)
Solar Space Telescope
2017
Space Hard X-Ray Modulation Telescope
 India 1999
(PSLV-CA C2)

3 Sats

1999
PSLV-C2
South Korea Kitsat-3
Germany DLR-Tubsat
2001
GSAT
(by GSLV)
2007
SRE-1
planned 2013
IRNSS[98]
2002
Kalpana-1[99]
2013
Mangalyaan[75]
(orbiter)
2021 (planned)
Aditya-L1
2015
Astrosat
 Japan 1986
(H-I H15F)[100]
3 Sats
2002
H-IIA
Australia FedSat
1977
ETS-II[101]
(by N-I)
1994
OREX
1997
ETS-VII[102]
2010
QZSS[103]
2002
Kodama
1998
Nozomi
(orbiter) (Failure)
1975
Taiyo[104]
1979
Hakucho

? : Date is assumed
Only projects with under-development or above status have been listed

Orbital Launch Frequency[edit]

2001-2010[edit]

2001[105] 2002[106] 2003[107] 2004[108] 2005[109] 2006[110] 2007[111] 2008[112] 2009[113] 2010[114] Total
 China 1 5 7 8 5 6 9 11 6 15 73
 Japan 1 3 3 - 2 6 2 1 3 2 23
 India 2 1 2 1 1 1 3 3 2 3 19
 Israel - 1 - 1 - - 1 - - 1 4
 Iran - - - - - - - 1 1 - 2
 South Korea - - - - - - - - 1 1 2
 North Korea - - - - - - - - 1 - 1
Total 4 10 12 10 8 13 15 16 14 22 124

2011-2018[edit]

2011[115] 2012[116] 2013[117] 2014[118] 2015[119] 2016[120] 2017[121] 2018[122] Total
 China 19 19 15 16 19 22 18 39 167
 India 3 2 4 5 5 7 5 7 38
 Japan 3 2 3 4 4 4 7 6 33
 Iran 1 3 1 - 1 - 1 - 7
 North Korea - 2 - - - 1 - - 3
 Israel - - - 1 - 1 - - 2
 South Korea - - 1 - - - - - 1
Total 26 28 24 26 29 35 31 52 251

Solar System exploration[edit]

Solar System exploration and manned spaceflights are major space technologies in the public eye. Since Sakigake, the first interplanetary probe in Asia, was launched in 1985, Japan has completed the most planetary exploration, but other nations are catching up.

Moon race[edit]

The Moon is thought to be rich in Helium-3, which could one day be used in nuclear fusion power plants to fuel future energy demands in Asia. All three main Asian space powers plan to send people to the Moon in the distant future and have already sent lunar probes.

Asian lunar exploration probes
Mission name Type Year Vehicle Outcome
Japan Hiten
(MUSES-A)
Flyby/Orbiter 1990 Japan Mu-3S-II Success
Japan Hagoromo Orbiter Failure
Japan Lunar-A Orbiter 2004 (intended)
Never launched
Japan M5 Cancelled and integrated into Russia's Luna-Glob.
Japan SELENE
(VRAD)
Orbiter 2007 Japan H-IIA 202 Success
China Chang'e 1 Orbiter 2007 China Long March 3A Success
India Chandrayaan-1 Orbiter 2008 India PSLV-XL Success
China Chang'e 2 Orbiter 2010 China Long March 3C Success
China Chang'e 3 Orbiter
Lander
Rover
2013 China Long March 3B Success
China Chang'e 5-T1 Flyby 2014 China Long March 3C Success
China Chang'e 4 Orbiters
Lander
Rover
2018-19 China Long March 4C and Long March 3B Success
India Chandrayaan-2 Orbiter
Lander
Rover
2019 India GSLV MkIII Partial success
ChinaChang'e 5 Sample return Q4 2020 China Long March 5 Planned
South Korea Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter Orbiter December 2020 United States Falcon 9 Planned
Japan SELENE-2 Orbiter
Lander
Rover
2020s (intended) Japan H-IIA (intended) Cancelled
Japan SLIM Lander January 2022 Japan H-IIA 202 Planned
Japan DESTINY+ Flyby 2022 Japan Epsilon Planned
China Chang'e 6 Sample return 2023-24 China Long March 5 Planned
China Chang'e 7 Lander 2023 TBD Planned
JapanIndia Chandrayaan-3 Orbiter
Lander
Rover
2024 Japan H-III Proposed
China Chang'e 8 Lander 2026 TBD Proposed
North Korea North Korean mission to Moon TBD 2026 North Korea Unha-20 Proposed

Probing the Moon[edit]

Japan was the first Asian country to launch a lunar probe. The Hiten (Japanese: "flying angel") spacecraft (known before the launch as MUSES-A), built by the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science of Japan, was launched on 24 January 1990. In many ways, the mission did not go as was planned. Kaguya, the second Japanese lunar orbiter spacecraft, was launched on 14 September 2007.

China launched its first lunar probe, Chang'e-1, on 24 October 2007 and successfully entered lunar orbit on 5 November 2007.

India launched its first lunar probe, Chandrayaan-1, on 22 October 2008 and successfully entered its final lunar orbit on 2 November 2008. The mission was considered a major success and the probe detected water on the lunar surface.

Moon landings[edit]

The first confirmed Moon landing from Asia was Hiten's mission in 1993. An intentional hard landing at the end of the mission, some pictures of the lunar surface were taken before impact.[123] Hiten was not designed as a Moon lander and had few scientific instruments for lunar exploration. The next Japanese Moon landing program was the LUNAR-A, developed from 1992. Although the LUNAR-A orbiter was cancelled, its penetrators are integrated into the Russian Luna-Glob program, which was scheduled to launch in 2011. The penetrators are "relatively" hard landers,[124] but they are not expected to be destroyed at impact.

The first Asian probe that was part of a lunar landing program was the Indian Moon Impact Probe (MIP) released from Chandrayaan-1 in 2008. MIP was a hard lander and was designed to move the ground under for research purposes. MIP was designed to be destroyed at impact. Its instruments performed lunar observations to within 25 minutes before impact. The landing test was to be applied to future soft landings such as Chandrayaan-2, planned for 2019. However, following successful orbital insertion, ISRO lost the contact with lander-rover module which was supposed to conduct soft landing on moon and only limited success could be accomplished. After accomplishment of its first manned mission, India has proposed space stations and manned missions to Moon in long term.[125][126]

The Chinese Chang'e-1 spacecraft also achieved a systematic hard landing at the end of its mission in 2009, when China became the sixth country to reach the lunar surface. One purpose of the lander was to pre-test for future soft landings. A Chinese lunar soft lander is achieved with the Chang'e-3 mission. With following Chang'e 4, PRC became world's first country to land on far side of the Moon. China also aims to undertake a manned Moon landing by late 2020s.[127]

Exploration of the major planets[edit]

Japanese interplanetary probes have been mostly limited to Small Solar System bodies such as comets and asteroids. Japan was world's first country to launch a spacecraft on asteroids. JAXA's Nozomi probe was launched in 1998, but contact was lost with the probe due to electrical failures before visiting the planet Mars. The second Japanese probe for the planet Venus, Akatsuki, was launched in 2010. Akatsuki entered orbit around Venus on December 7, 2015. Together with European Space Agency, JAXA has launched Mio spacecraft to for mapping magnetic field of Mercury. Spacecraft will have flyby through Venus as well.

Chinese scientists expect that China will take 20 years to launch independent planetary probes.[128] The Chinese manned Mars exploration program is planned for around 2050 by the Chinese Academy of Sciences.[129] After failed attempt to launch Yinghuo-1, China is planning another Mars mission with an orbiter as well as rover. Moreover, China plans to send an orbiter to Venus around 2025.[130] China has also been planning an orbiter to Jupiter.[131]

India has successfully launched Mars Orbiter Mission on November 5, 2013. It reached Mars on September 2014. India has become the only country to successfully insert a satellite into Martian orbit in its maiden attempt; it also became the first Asian country to achieve this feat. India is planning another mission to Mars in 2020s.[132] India has schedules to launch Aditya-L1 near Sun to study Solar corona[133] and developing Shukrayaan-1 spacecraft to Venus.[134] India is also studying exploration missions to asteroids, Jupiter and to exo-planets and beyond solar system like American Voyager 1.[135]

Asian interplanetary exploration probes
Mission name Destination Type Year Vehicle Outcome
Japan Nozomi Mars Orbiter 2003 Japan M-V Failure
Japan Hayabusa Asteroid: 25143 Itokawa Sample return 2005-7 Japan M-V Success
Japan Akatsuki
(PLANET-C)
Venus Orbiter 2010 Japan H-IIA 202 Failure
(Failed orbiter insertion)
2015 Success
Japan IKAROS Venus Flyby 2010 Success
Japan Shin'en Venus Flyby 2010 Failure
China Yinghuo-1 Mars Orbiter 2011 Ukraine Zenit-2M Failure
China Chang'e 2 Asteroid: 4179 Toutatis Flyby 2012 China Long March 3C Success
India Mars Orbiter Mission Mars Orbiter 2013-14 India PSLV-XL Success
Japan Hayabusa2 Asteroid: 162173 Ryugu Sample return 2014-20 Japan H-IIA 202 en-route
Japan PROCYON Asteroid: 2000 DP107 Flyby 2016 Japan H-IIA 202 Failure
Japan Mio Mercury Orbiter 2018-24 European Union Ariane 5 ECA en-route
India Aditya-L1 Sun Orbiter 2020 India PSLV-XL Planned
China Mars Global Remote Sensing Orbiter and Small Rover Mars Orbiter/Rover mid-2020 China Long March 5 Planned
United Arab Emirates Hope Mars Mission Mars Orbiter 2020-21 Japan H-IIA Planned
Japan DESTINY+ Asteroid: 3200 Phaethon Flyby 2022-26 Japan Epsilon Planned
India Shukrayaan-1 Venus Orbiter and aerobots 2023 India GSLV MkIII Planned
Japan MMX Mars Orbiter 2024-2025 TBD Planned
Phobos Sample return Planned
India Mars Orbiter Mission 2 Mars Orbiter
Lander
Rover
TBD India GSLV MkII or GSLV MkIII Planned

Asian space agencies and programs[edit]

  Human Lunar Exploration + Operates Space Station + Human Spaceflight + Operates Extraterrestrial Probes + Launch Capability + Operates Satellites
  Station + Human Spaceflight + Operates Extraterrestrial Probes + Launch Capability + Operates Satellites
  Human spaceflight + Operates Extraterrestrial Probes + Launch Capability + Operates Satellites
  Operates Extraterrestrial Probes + Launch Capability + Operates Satellites
  Launch Capability + Operates Satellites
  None Of The Above
Country Name Initialisms/Acronym Founded Terminated Capabilities of the space agency Remarks
Astronauts Operates Satellites Sounding Rockets capable Recoverable Biological Sounding Rockets capable
 Bangladesh Space Research and Remote Sensing Organization SPARRSO 1980 No No No No [136]
 People's Republic of China China National Space Administration
(Chinese: 国家航天局)
CNSA 22 April 1993 Yes Yes Yes Yes [137]
 India Indian Space Research Organisation
(Hindi: भारतीय अंतरिक्ष अनुसंधान संगठन)
ISRO
इसरो
15 August 1969 Yes Yes Yes Yes [138][139][140]
 Indonesia Indonesian: Lembaga Antariksa dan Penerbangan Nasional
(National Institute of Aeronautics and Space)
LAPAN 27 November 1964 Yes Yes Yes No [citation needed]
 Iran Iranian Space Agency
(Persian: سازمان فضایی ایران‎)
ISA 2003 No Yes Yes Yes [141][142][143]
 Israel Israeli Space Agency
(Hebrew: סוכנות החלל הישראלית‎)
ISA
סל"ה
April 1983 Yes Yes Yes No [citation needed]
 Japan Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency
(Japanese: 宇宙航空研究開発機構)
JAXA 1 October 2003 Yes Yes Yes Yes [144][145]
 Malaysia Malaysian National Space Agency
(Malay: Agensi Angkasa Negara)
ANGKASA 2002 Yes Yes No No [146]
 North Korea Korean Committee of Space Technology
(Korean: 조선우주공간기술위원회)
KCST 1980s 2013 No Yes Yes No [147][148][149]
 Pakistan Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission
(Urdu: پاکستان خلائی و بالا فضائی تحقی‍قاتی کمیشن‎)
SUPARCO
سپارکو
16 September 1961 No Yes Yes No [citation needed]
 Philippines Philippine Space Agency PhilSA 8 August 2019 No Yes No No [150]
 South Korea Korea Aerospace Research Institute
(Korean: 한국항공우주연구원)
KARI 10 October 1989 Yes Yes Yes No [citation needed]
 Republic of China National Space Organization
(Chinese: 國家太空中心)
NSPO 3 October 1991 No Yes Yes No [151]
 Thailand Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency
(Thai: สำนักงานพัฒนาเทคโนโลยีอวกาศและภูมิสารสนเทศ)
GISTDA
สทอภ
3 November 2002 No Yes No No [152]

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

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External links[edit]