Fanhui Shi Weixing


The Fanhui Shi Weixing (simplified Chinese: 返回式卫星; traditional Chinese: 返回式衛星; pinyin: Fǎnhuí Shì Wèixīng; lit. 'recoverable satellite') were a series of Chinese recoverable reconnaissance satellites. The satellites were used for military and civilian observation tasks and completed 26 flights between 1 June 1969 and 9 September 2006. There were four models of the Fanhui Shi Weixing (FSW) satellites: FSW-0 (introduced in 1974); FSW-1 (introduced in 1987); FSW-2 (introduced in 1992); and FSW-3 (introduced in 2003). All four models were launched into orbit using Long March rockets.

A novel feature of the spacecraft's re-entry module was the use of impregnated oak, a natural material, as the ablative material for its heat shield.[1]

The achievement of a recoverable satellite landing technology placed China third in the global space race after the Soviet Union and the United States.[2] It served as the basis for the second Chinese crewed space program, the third crewed program (Project 863) during the late 1980s, and the current Shenzhou program (active since 1992).[3]


Development of the Fanhui Shi Weixing satellite first began in the early 1970s. On 26 November 1975, China launched the first FSW satellite from Jiuquan in Inner-Mongolia.[4] The satellite finished its mission successfully on 29 November 1975 and returned to Earth safely, landing within the Liuzhi Special District (六枝特区) of the Guizhou Province.[5] This was the first atmospheric re-entry mission to have been undertaken by an Asian country, and China became the third country to have recovered a satellite after its mission.[6] By 2003, China had launched a total of 22 of this kind of satellite for climate, geographical, and agricultural purposes.


The FSW-0 was the first generation of China's returnable satellites.[7] Its primary use was for the inspection of national land and natural resources. First-generation FSW-0 satellites all carried prism-scan panoramic cameras. The FSW-0 did not have a complete orbit control system, so its decay or attenuation of orbit was quick, and it had a relatively short orbital duration. Its landing or return location accuracy was also relatively low.

The next generation, the FSW-1, carried more powerful cameras than its predecessor and was mainly used for drawing maps. Its spatial resolution was as high as 10m (ie. was able to discern objects 10 meters apart).

The next two generations were called FSW-2 and FSW-3.

Satellite Mass (kg) 1800 2100 2800~3100
Satellite Volume (m3) 7.6 7.6 12.8
Return Load (kg) 260 260 400
Launch Load (kg) 340 450 500~600
Mission Duration (day) 3~5 8 15~17
Microgravity Gradient (g) 10−3~10−5 10−3~10−5 10−3~10−5
Orbital Inclination (°) 57~68 57~70 57~70
Periapsis (km) 172~180 200~210 175~200
Apoapsis (km) 400~500 300~400 300~400
Orbit Period (min) ~90 ~90 ~90
Launch Rocket Type Long March C Long March C Long March D Long March C or D

Crewed flights

It was speculated the first model FSW-0 was initially designed for crewed use as a spacecraft rather than the first crewed Shuguang program that was aborted in the early 1970s.[8] This is due to the lack of information about the origins of FSW and China's second crewed space program. The country's second crewed space program was announced in 1978 with the open publishing of details and photos, but the program was abruptly cancelled in 1980.

The West suggested after dozens of mostly successful launches of FB-1 and CZ-2 rockets, and four successful annual launches of FSW—the last of which on 26 January 1978, was claimed as a dress rehearsal. China made their first attempt to launch a crewed version of FSW spacecraft in December 1978 (or on 7 January 1979, according to another unconfirmed source) but due to a failure including the loss of an astronaut, this program was closed and the FSW satellite—which was redesigned for un-crewed missions as subsequent models—was only retrieved from orbit in 1982.[9]


  1. ^ "Chinese FSW reconnaissance SA < Satellite". Encyclopedia Astronautica. Archived from the original on 2010-01-16. Retrieved 2016-01-12.
  2. ^ "Development of China's Recoverable Satellites (Translation)" (PDF). USA 1 July 1996. Retrieved 17 October 2020.
  3. ^ "FSW". Retrieved 2020-10-31.
  4. ^ Matignon, Louis de Gouyon (2020-01-13). "Spy satellites: the history of reconnaissance satellites". Space Legal Issues. Retrieved 2020-10-31.
  5. ^ 1975年:第一颗返回式卫星发射 (Year 1975: The Launch of the First Returnable Satellite; from
  6. ^ 返回式卫星 (China's First Returnable FSW-2 and the current FSW-3.)
  7. ^ Harvey, Brian (2013), Harvey, Brian (ed.), "Recoverable satellites", China in Space: The Great Leap Forward, Springer Praxis Books, New York, NY: Springer, pp. 105–133, doi:10.1007/978-1-4614-5043-6_4, ISBN 978-1-4614-5043-6, retrieved 2020-10-29
  8. ^ "Chinese Manned Capsule 1978". Encyclopedia Astronautica. Archived from the original on 28 August 2012. Retrieved 13 May 2009.
  9. ^ "Chinese Manned Space Program: Behind Closed Doors". Encyclopedia Astronautical. Archived from the original on 2012-08-28. Retrieved 2009-05-13. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 28 August 2012. Retrieved 13 May 2009.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)


    • 《返回式卫星》 (Returnable Satellite); Author: Lin Baohua (林华宝); Press: Tsinghua University Press, Jinan University Press; (ISBN 7302048827)
    • 《太空情报与国家安全》 (Space Intelligence & National Security); Author: Lin Ziyang (林子洋); Press: Youshi Press; (ISBN 9575744721)

External links

  • FSW at