Remote locations
Other Chinese launch sites were developed during the Cold War and specifically located in sometimes remote, inland locations: Jiuquan in the Gobi Desert, Xichang near Chengdu, and Taiyuan near Beijing.
That has meant rocket stages had to be transported by rail, thus imposing size limitations based on the curvature of rail lines and the width of train tunnels.
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Transport of rocket stages and payloads to Hainan can be done by sea.
Additionally, the Hainan site is closer to the equator, to better accommodate satellite launches to geostationary orbit, and allows rocket debris to fall into water instead of back to land.
Removing the size limitations on Chinese spacecraft is important because a new, modernized family of Chinese launchers are much wider than older ones, necessary to obtain the lift necessary for interplanetary flights and a large, 20-ton space station intended as the culmination of a three-part human spaceflight plan put in place in 1993.
The upcoming maiden flight of the medium-lift Long March 7 will carry a test version of a new, next-generation, human-rated spacecraft and several small satellites to orbit.
This is one of several planned precursor missions leading to the development of the 20-ton station, including Tiangong-2, a small, human-tended space laboratory to be launched in September 2016.
That launch will then be followed by China’s first astronaut mission since 2013, with the two-person crew scheduled to visit Tiangong-2 for 30 days, making it China’s longest duration mission yet.
However, human spaceflight missions will still be launched from Jiuquan.
Zhang practices entering the return capsule on May 31, 2013.
Photos: Shenzhou-10: China’s longest crewed space mission
Zhang practices entering the return capsule on May 31, 2013.
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Zhang, left, Nie, center, and Wang, right, during a training session in the return capsule.
Photos: Shenzhou-10: China’s longest crewed space mission
Zhang, left, Nie, center, and Wang, right, during a training session in the return capsule.
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Nie, Zhang and Wang wave to onlookers the day before the start of the mission. <br /><br />
Photos: Shenzhou-10: China’s longest crewed space mission
Nie, Zhang and Wang wave to onlookers the day before the start of the mission.

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The Shenzhou-10 spacecraft is transferred to the launch site at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on the day of the launch.
Photos: Shenzhou-10: China’s longest crewed space mission
The Shenzhou-10 spacecraft is transferred to the launch site at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on the day of the launch.
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Hours before launch, the Shenzhou-10 spaceship arrives at the launch site.
Photos: Shenzhou-10: China’s longest crewed space mission
Hours before launch, the Shenzhou-10 spaceship arrives at the launch site.
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After the 15-day mission, the Shenzhou-10's return capsule landed successfully in Inner Mongolia on June 26, 2013.
Photos: Shenzhou-10: China’s longest crewed space mission
After the 15-day mission, the Shenzhou-10’s return capsule landed successfully in Inner Mongolia on June 26, 2013.
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After emerging from the return capsule, the astronauts wave to people on the ground.
Photos: Shenzhou-10: China’s longest crewed space mission
After emerging from the return capsule, the astronauts wave to people on the ground.
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Shenzhou-10 was China's fifth manned space mission. The Shenzhou-10 spaceship, propelled by a Long March-2F rocket, blasted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert on June 11, 2013.
Photos: Shenzhou-10: China’s longest crewed space mission
Shenzhou-10 was China’s fifth manned space mission. The Shenzhou-10 spaceship, propelled by a Long March-2F rocket, blasted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert on June 11, 2013.
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The crew for this mission included a woman, Wang Yaping, and two male astronauts, Nie Haisheng and Zhang Xiaoguang.
Photos: Shenzhou-10: China’s longest crewed space mission
The crew for this mission included a woman, Wang Yaping, and two male astronauts, Nie Haisheng and Zhang Xiaoguang.
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Nie, Zhang and Wang discuss technical issues during training in April 2012, a year before the 15-day mission.
Photos: Shenzhou-10: China’s longest crewed space mission
Nie, Zhang and Wang discuss technical issues during training in April 2012, a year before the 15-day mission.
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The astronauts had to undergo a series of tests in their pressure suits prior to the mission.
Photos: Shenzhou-10: China’s longest crewed space mission
The astronauts had to undergo a series of tests in their pressure suits prior to the mission.
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4 of 13
Wang undergoes a cardiovascular endurance test a few weeks before the mission.
Photos: Shenzhou-10: China’s longest crewed space mission
Wang undergoes a cardiovascular endurance test a few weeks before the mission.
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Nie undergoes an isokinetic muscle test.
Photos: Shenzhou-10: China’s longest crewed space mission
Nie undergoes an isokinetic muscle test.
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6 of 13
Zhang practices entering the return capsule on May 31, 2013.
Photos: Shenzhou-10: China’s longest crewed space mission
Zhang practices entering the return capsule on May 31, 2013.
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7 of 13
Zhang, left, Nie, center, and Wang, right, during a training session in the return capsule.
Photos: Shenzhou-10: China’s longest crewed space mission
Zhang, left, Nie, center, and Wang, right, during a training session in the return capsule.
Hide Caption
8 of 13
Nie, Zhang and Wang wave to onlookers the day before the start of the mission. <br /><br />
Photos: Shenzhou-10: China’s longest crewed space mission
Nie, Zhang and Wang wave to onlookers the day before the start of the mission.

Hide Caption
9 of 13
The Shenzhou-10 spacecraft is transferred to the launch site at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on the day of the launch.
Photos: Shenzhou-10: China’s longest crewed space mission
The Shenzhou-10 spacecraft is transferred to the launch site at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on the day of the launch.
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10 of 13
Hours before launch, the Shenzhou-10 spaceship arrives at the launch site.
Photos: Shenzhou-10: China’s longest crewed space mission
Hours before launch, the Shenzhou-10 spaceship arrives at the launch site.
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11 of 13
After the 15-day mission, the Shenzhou-10's return capsule landed successfully in Inner Mongolia on June 26, 2013.
Photos: Shenzhou-10: China’s longest crewed space mission
After the 15-day mission, the Shenzhou-10’s return capsule landed successfully in Inner Mongolia on June 26, 2013.
Hide Caption
12 of 13
After emerging from the return capsule, the astronauts wave to people on the ground.
Photos: Shenzhou-10: China’s longest crewed space mission
After emerging from the return capsule, the astronauts wave to people on the ground.
Hide Caption
13 of 13
Shenzhou-10 was China's fifth manned space mission. The Shenzhou-10 spaceship, propelled by a Long March-2F rocket, blasted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert on June 11, 2013.
Photos: Shenzhou-10: China’s longest crewed space mission
Shenzhou-10 was China’s fifth manned space mission. The Shenzhou-10 spaceship, propelled by a Long March-2F rocket, blasted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert on June 11, 2013.
Hide Caption
1 of 13
The crew for this mission included a woman, Wang Yaping, and two male astronauts, Nie Haisheng and Zhang Xiaoguang.
Photos: Shenzhou-10: China’s longest crewed space mission
The crew for this mission included a woman, Wang Yaping, and two male astronauts, Nie Haisheng and Zhang Xiaoguang.
Hide Caption
2 of 13
Nie, Zhang and Wang discuss technical issues during training in April 2012, a year before the 15-day mission.
Photos: Shenzhou-10: China’s longest crewed space mission
Nie, Zhang and Wang discuss technical issues during training in April 2012, a year before the 15-day mission.
Hide Caption
3 of 13
The astronauts had to undergo a series of tests in their pressure suits prior to the mission.
Photos: Shenzhou-10: China’s longest crewed space mission
The astronauts had to undergo a series of tests in their pressure suits prior to the mission.
Hide Caption
4 of 13
Wang undergoes a cardiovascular endurance test a few weeks before the mission.
Photos: Shenzhou-10: China’s longest crewed space mission
Wang undergoes a cardiovascular endurance test a few weeks before the mission.
Hide Caption
5 of 13
Nie undergoes an isokinetic muscle test.
Photos: Shenzhou-10: China’s longest crewed space mission
Nie undergoes an isokinetic muscle test.
Hide Caption
6 of 13
Zhang practices entering the return capsule on May 31, 2013.
Photos: Shenzhou-10: China’s longest crewed space mission
Zhang practices entering the return capsule on May 31, 2013.
Hide Caption
7 of 13
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Space station
The large space station should be in orbit sometime between 2020 and 2023.
When the large space station will be in orbit is largely dependent on successful testing and launch of the Long March 5 heavy lift vehicle, capable of lifting up to 25 metric tons to low Earth orbit and 14 tons to geostationary transfer orbit.
That vehicle more than doubles China’s current lift capacity, and development has already suffered numerous delays. The new launcher family uses a different, kerosene based, more environmentally friendly fuel mixture.
But it’s been the larger width of the launchers that has especially posed challenges for Chinese manufacturers. Eventually, the Long March 7 will be used for space station resupply missions.
How China's astronauts prepare for space
How China’s astronauts prepare for space

How China’s astronauts prepare for space 01:23
Public viewing platforms
Also notable about the upcoming launch is that for the first time, spectators will be allowed at public viewing areas that can accommodate 25,000 people.
The Chinese space program has been carefully controlled, and in some aspects, opaque.
But China has gained considerable regional and international prestige from its space efforts, prestige that can translate into geostrategic influence.
That only happens though when people — the public and the media — know what is going on.
Gradually, as they have felt more confident about success, Chinese officials have lifted the veil of secrecy on efforts associated with the Shenzhou human spaceflight program and the Chang’e robotic lunar exploration program.
In fact, Chinese officials have already invited astronauts from other countries to visit their space station once in orbit, with potential European visitors already said to be learning Chinese.
China has been excluded from the currently orbiting International Space Station (ISS) due to U.S. political objections and legislative restrictions. Thus, the Chinese invitation gives China the edge in perceived international inclusiveness and cooperative space spirit.
The downside of a seaside launch site is that weather is unpredictable, potentially causing launch delays.
Wenchang tourist officials have said if weather creates unfavorable conditions, such as abnormal seas or slippery roads, the viewing stations will be closed.
Meanwhile, they are working on building more hotels. All hotel rooms in the area — which is said able to accommodate 80,000 tourists — are already booked.
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