Chinese space probe flies by asteroid Toutatis

The State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND) announced last weekend that Chang’e-2, a repurposed Chinese lunar orbiter, has flown by asteroid Toutatis on December 13 at 16:30:09 Beijing Time. During the flyby, it came as close as 3.2 km from the asteroid.

Images taken by Chang’e-2 of the asteroid Toutatis
(Source: SASTIND microblog)

Chang’e-2 is part of China’s three-phase lunar exploration effort (read our overview of China’s space program here – in Dutch only). Its primary mission was to look for suitable landing sites in preparation of the Chang’e-3 lander mission set to launch next year. After completing its primary mission, the spacecraft left its lunar orbit for the Earth-Sun L2 Lagrangian point (a point in the plane of orbit of one body around another (i.e., the Earth around the Sun) at which a small third body can remain stationary with respect to both) to evaluate China’s deep space tracking and control network. In April this year, it left the L2 position to rendezvous with Toutatis. Chang’e-2 will continue its deep space travel.

Toutatis has been making close approaches to Earth at four-year intervals and has been frequently observed by radar. The next opportunity for radar imaging of Toutatis will occur in late 2016/early 2017. The next time Toutatis will approach at least this close to Earth is in November 2069.

The official news item can be found here. Click here for part 1 and 2 of our (Dutch only) overview of the Chinese space program.

China completes this year’s launches

Turkish earth observation satellite GK-2 is launched on a Long March 2D carrier on Dec. 19, 2012 12:13 a.m Beijing time. (Source: Xinhua)

Just a few hours ago China’s Long March carrier rocket series marked its 174th -and this year’s final- flight with the launch of a Turkish earth observation satellite. In total, China completed 19 successful launches this year, sending 28 satellites or spacecraft into orbit.

Other recent launches include the Yaogan XVI remote-sensing satellite, launched on 25 November. The Yaogan XVI remote-sensing satellite was developed by an affiliate research institute of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC). Its mission objectives include “technological experimentation, land resource surveying, agricultural yield estimation and disaster prevention and reduction”. Further details in this source. A few days later, a Long March-3B placed a Chinasat 12, a telecommunication satellite made by Thales Alenia Space, into orbit. More information here.

Next year 20 satellites are set to be launched. Definite highlights will be the manned space docking test between Tiangong-1 and Shenzhou-10 (in June), and the launch of Chang’e-3 moon lander (in July-September).

Read up more about China’s space program in our (Dutch-only) overview (part 1 and 2).

China to invest 10 billion yuan in aircraft engines

J-20 fighter prototype, to be powered by Chinese engines once in operation. (Source:

Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) has launched a long-term three-part plan up to2030 to develop advanced aviation engines. AVIC Engine Holdings has allocated 10 billion yuan, or €1.2 billion, for R&D in the first phase of the plan, which runs until 2015. Interestingly, this figure is identical to the what Lin Zuomin, president of AVIC, announced in April 2011. The plan is targeted at catching up with advanced aircraft engine manufacturing countries.

“During the first phase, which will conclude by the end of 2015 if everything goes well, we will strive to ensure our air force’s aircraft be equipped with proper engines and to lift our development capability to that of the developed countries’ level in the 1980s. The second phase will witness us substantially narrowing the technological gap between developed countries and us. And by the end of the last phase, our engines will be as advanced as theirs”, according to Zhang Jian, deputy general manager of AVIC Engine Holdings.

China’s current inability to domestically mass-produce modern high-performance jet engines at a consistently high-quality standard has proven to be an obstacle for the development and production of tactical aircraft. It is interesting to note that the plan specifically mentions applications for the air force (and business jets, although developed by a different AVIC subsidiary), whereas no mention is made of C919 commercial airliner. AVIC Commercial Aircraft Engine Co. is tasked with the development of a Chinese powerplant for this aircraft.

More details can be found here. Also, read our earlier post on domestic engine development here.

Chinese vaccine development

Vaccine development is a focus area of the Chinese government and industry. In August 2012, a HIV vaccine developed by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention and National Vaccine & Serum Institute (under China National Biotec Group and China National Pharmaceutical Group) entered phase II clinical trial in Beijing YouAn Hospital. It is the first vaccine using replicative live viral vectors to enter clinical trials .

End October 2012, the first Hepatitis E vaccine was launched on the Chinese market. The new vaccine, Hecolin, is the product of joined research and investment by Xiamen University National Institute of Diagnostics and Vaccine Development in Infectious Diseases and Xiamen Innovax (subsidiary company of Yangshengtang Group). Hecolin was approved after a phase III clinical trial in 2010 showing that it was highly effective in preventing infection among almost 100.000 healthy participants. The vaccine is based on a genetically modified strain of the bacterium Escherichia coli which produces a protein that stimulates the recipient’s immune system against Hepatitis E.

Hecolin Hepatitis E vaccine by Innovax

Hecolin Hepatitis E vaccine by Innovax

A recent breakthrough in hepatitis research came from the National Institute of Biological Sciences in Beijing. The research team identified Sodium taurocholate cotransporting polypeptide (NTCP) as a functional receptor for human hepatitis B and D virus. Until now, the receptors on human liver cells which are involved in virus entry were unknown. The elucidation of entry mechanism is pivotal for the development of new prevention and intervention methods for hepatitis B and D.


  • Yan H. et al. Sodium taurocholate cotransporting polypeptide is a functional receptor for human hepatitis B and D virus. eLife, November 2012

Dutch waste-to-energy & water treatment experts in Shenzhen to advise government

Today four Dutch experts in waste-to-energy and water treatment systems are joining the Shenzhen municipal government in a workshop aimed at providing Shenzhen hands-on advice on how to implement and optimize the energy supply and distribution plan of the Low-Carbon Zone in Longgang district, Shenzhen.

The world’s most efficient waste-to-energy facility in Amsterdam

The experts are from NL Agency, Waternet, and the Amsterdam Waste & Energy Company. The latter operates the world’s most efficient waste-to-energy facility, partly because of close collaboration with the neighbouring water treatment facility. The workshop, co-organised by the Netherlands Office of Science and Technology in Guangzhou, is part of the ongoing Low-Carbon Zone collaboration government-to-government (G2G) between The Netherlands and Shenzhen as a follow up to the large scale expert meeting that was held earlier this year. The workshop was preceded by site visits to existing power plants and water treatment facilities.

Tomorrow, architects from The Netherlands will advise the Shenzhen Institute of Building Research on the designs of the pilot projects, some of which are to be realized before June next year. Please check back for more updates.