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The Race to Dominate Cislunar Orbit

China’s push to build its own National Space Station continues to accelerate.

On May 5th, the PRC tested their next generation crew spacecraft on the Long March 5B rocket.

A massive 10-engine launch vehicle designed to carry heavy payloads, kicking off the initial  construction phase of China’s National Space Station.

National, not international.

During China’s 70th anniversary of the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, President Xi Jinping proclaimed, “No force will stop or shake China or its people from achieving its goals”

Based on that statement, and last “Two Sessions” outline of the Chinese Dream of National Rejuvenation, red flags are emerging across the international community, particularly in Space, as China’s current trajectory is on a vector of dominance, not cooperation.

In a recent press release, the PRC outlined their plans for Cislunar Orbit – the space between the Earth and the Moon…. and Lunar Mining. 

The deputy chief of the Armament Development Department of the Central Military Commission said, “The earth-moon space will be strategically important for the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, noting the abundance of Silicon dioxide on the Moon and water in the Polar regions, providing the materials needed to construct a space-based solar power plant 25 times larger than the International Space Station.

The Lieutenant General went on to say, “The future of China’s manned space program is not a moon landing, which is quite simple, or even the manned Mars program which remains difficult, but continual exploration of the earth-moon space with ever developing technology.”

Months before the Chinese launch in May, the Trump Administration began drafting a legal blueprint for mining on the Moon under a new US sponsored international agreement called the Artemis Accords. The program is proposing “safety zones” that would surround future Moon bases to prevent damage or interference from rival countries or companies operating in close proximity.

Formal negotiations with Canada, Japan, the EU and UAE are underway.

As countries increasingly treat space as a new military domain, the US-led agreement is emblematic of NASA’s growing role as a tool of American Diplomacy. With their plans to put humans back on the moon by 2024, and building up a “sustainable presence” on the Lunar South Pole thereafter, finding a way to co-exist in Cislunar orbit and on the Moon is becoming a priority.

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