China considers commercial Shenzhou flights

This story is sourced from Flight International
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In the second quarter of 2008 a legal bill may be introduced into China's legislative chamber, the National People's Congress, to enable public private partnerships (PPP) for the use of the nation's spaceports and its manned spacecraft Shenzhou.

The legislation will at the very least update the country's law covering its space transport assets. Information from senior sources within the Chinese scientific community has been passed to Flight International outlining the legislation's likely PPP proposals.

This information adds detail to a pro-commercial spaceflight statement made earlier this year by the head of the China National Space Administration, Sun Laiyan. The PPP commercial options could include, private management of existing spaceports, China's rockets launching other country's low-Earth orbit microgravity experiments its spaceports used by third parties' rockets for orbiting similar experiments or even manned flights and LEO science missions using Shenzhou.

China has made two manned Shenzhou flights, the first in October 2003 with one astronaut and the second in October 2005 with two. A third mission including a spacewalk is expected before the end of the decade.

Shenzhou has a re-entry capsule and an orbital module, within which experiments could be conducted by the crew. But there is no indication that China would, like Russia and its Soyuz capsule, sell seats on spacecraft to foreign nationals.

Flight was also told that the interest in commercial spaceflight had been triggered by the success of US company Space Adventures launching private spaceflight participants to the International Space Station and that 'there has been a rash of new institutions set up for space law and technology. One of the motivations is to enhance the position of China in the international space community."

Four key universities already involved in the country's space education programme are the Harbin Institute of Technology in north-west China, the Technical University of Beijing the Beijing University of Political Science and Economics and the University of Beijing.