Taiyuan Satellite Launch Centre

The Taiyuan Satellite Launch Centre (TSLC) was built in the late 1960s, originally as a missile range to support China’s intermediate-range and intercontinental ballistic missile tests. It was later adopted for space launch missions to the sun-synchronous orbit, though missile tests from the centre have continued. The centre is known as the 25th Test and Training Base (Base 25) in its military name. The U.S. Space Command referred to the facility as “Wuzhai Missile and Space Centre”.

The launch centre is located in Kelan County of Shanxi Province, about 284 km northwest of the city of Taiyuan. The use of Taiyuan in its name was purely to disguise its true location, a trait regularly being used by the Chinese military during the Cold War era. Facilities of the centre are spread in the valleys of the Lüliang Mountains, about 1,500m above the sea level. The region has a continental monsoon climate, and is rather arid. The average yearly temperature is only 5°C.

History

In the mid-1960s, the Chinese military began to seek a new missile range head further east to Base 20 (Shuang Cheng Tzu Missile and Space Centre) in order to accommodate the increased range of its new-generation medium- and long-range ballistic missile tests. It was decided that the new launch site was to be built in Shanxi Province in central China. In March 1967, a task force of 1,585 soldiers was transported by train from Base 20 to Kelan County in Shanxi to begin the construction of the new missile launch site under the code name “Project 3201”.

The new launch site became operational in December 1968, with a Dongfeng 3 medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM) successfully launched from the site. Throughout the 1970s, the site continued expanding, with new launch and technical support facilities being added. A significant portion of these facilities were built underground and inside mountains in order to survive in a possible nuclear strike. The launch site was initially a subordinate unit of Base 20 (Jiuquan), but later became an independent launch centre designated the 25th Test and Training Base (or Base 25).

Between January 1979 and December 1981, Base 25 conducted five Dongfeng 5 ICBM test flights from its underground missile silos. In 1979, the Launch Complex 7 (LC-7) was completed to support space launches to the high-inclination sun-synchronous orbit (SSO). The first space launch from the site took place on 7 September 1988, with a Fengyun 1 meteorological satellite successfully launched on a Changzheng 4 rocket.

As part of China’s effort to break into the international commercial satellite launch market, the previously highly-secretive Base 25 was opened to the outside world in the late 1980s and became known as the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Centre. Between 1997 and 1999, a total of 12 Motorola Iridium global wireless communications satellites were launched from the centre on the Changzheng 2C rocket. In 1999, the centre launched the first China-Brazil Earth Resource Satellite (CBERS).

At the same time, the Taiyuan SLC continued supporting China’s ballistic missile tests, including the Julang 1 submarine-launched ballistic missile, the Dongfeng 21 medium-range ballistic missile, and Dongfeng 31 intercontinental-range ballistic missile, as well as the Changzheng 1D and Kaituozhe 1 small-load launchers.

Construction of the new Launch Complex 9 (LC-9) was completed in 2008, while the existing Launch Complex 7 received a modernisation upgrade. Between the two launch complexes the Taiyuan SLC is now able to support over 10 launches per year, and the minimum interval between two launches has been reduced to 3 days.

Launch Complex

The launch centre has two single-pad launch complexes, a technical area for rocket and spacecraft preparations, a communications centre, a mission command and control centre, and a space tracking centre. The stages of the missile and rocket were transported to the launch centre by railway, and offloaded at a transit station south of the launch complex. They were then transported by road to the technical area for checkout procedures. The launch vehicles were assembled on the launch pad by using a crane at the top of the umbilical tower to hoist each stage of the vehicle in place. Satellites were airlifted to the Taiyuan Wusu Airport about 300km away, and then transported to the centre by road.

Launch Pad Year of Commission Status Users
LC7 1979 Inactive CZ-2C, CZ-4A, CZ-4B
LC9 2008 Active CZ-4B, CZ-4C

Launch Complex 7

Launch Complex 9


Telemetry, Tracking and Control

The TT&C Centre, also known as Lüliang Command Post, is headquartered in the city of Taiyuan, It has four subordinate radar tracking stations in Yangqu (Shanxi), Lishi (Shanxi), Yulin (Shaanxi), and Hancheng (Shaanxi).

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