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Launches and Orbital Operations


Tyneside, UK
2021 Oct 17
Sunday, Day 290

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China Censorship

2021-076 SMA


Situation

As of 2021 late-August, Chinese authorities have clamped down on domestic space enthusiast websites and Social Media groups. They have been forbidden to put out any information that has not been already been published through an 'official' channel such as a report from a state-approved news agency or a Chinese government website/publication.


Previously

Discussion threads would often start up a few days/weeks before a launch with the name of a payload, the launch vehicle and a launch site and then occasional technical or orbital information would appear. Information was obviously being picked up from industry insiders.

When a maritime or air navigation warning was later published for a launch, it could quickly be married up to information already available.

Launch discussion threads were sometimes useful for early confirmation of lift-off when local inhabitants reported their houses shaking at ignition. Occasionally, orbital success (or failure) was confirmed before the first formal announcement was forthcoming from the state news organs. They also filled some of the gaps in official statements.


Effect of the Clampdown

Websites and associated discussion groups have removed nearly all previously-published articles and user postings about Chinese launches. Both the historical record and forward looking items are gone. Sites such as 9ifly and the Space Enthusiast Network are no longer showing information about anticipated Chinese events.

By way of explanation the Space Enthusiast Network, www.spaceflightfans.cn, published this statement (original in Chinese):

At the request of relevant agencies, the Space Enthusiast Network has suspended updates in order to carry out a 15-day review. Regarding the situation during the review period, this site makes the following explanation:

1. As of now, the Chinese elements of the website's space launch forecast and historical data have all been removed,

2. The comments section is completely closed and new comments will no longer be accepted,

3. There will be a comprehensive check of relevant information and news on the website, with a view to stronger editing and self-restraint.

The editorial team is still considering future development of the website, the result will be published here.

We will strictly abide by China's laws and regulations and as far as possible provide you with updated and better space information.

Thanks to the vast number of space enthusiasts for their support and love!


The site's list of upcoming launches has since re-appeared but there in no longer any mention of China.


Comment

This 'New Order' is remiscent of following the USSR's space programme in the 1960s through to the 1980s when the main sources of news were state approved. They included the likes of Radio Moscow, TASS, Novosti and printed publications from the Soviet Embassy in London.

The difference is that Soviet output contained useful information beyond the date, launch vehicle and launch site such as expert comment, finer detail and forward plans. Further information could even be gleaned by noting the occasional careful omissions from, or modified wording in, standardised official texts.

In the case of China, announcements tend to be 'bare bones', covering only the launch, so there's very little to omit or modify apart from (intentionally?) failing to mention all of the payloads being carried.


Page Date - 2021 Sep 4

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