Montag, 16. Oktober 2017 - 17:30 Uhr
A view of the LC2 and LC3 launch towers at Xichang Satellite Launch Centre, Sichuan Province, China. expoon.com
A website is allowing internet users to take a panoramic virtual tour of China's Xichang Satellite Centre in the hills of Sichuan Province.
The webpage, created by expoon.com, takes the visitor zooming down from on high to a close view of the LC2 and LC3 launch complexes from which China launches multiple rockets each year.
From there it is possible to explore different views of the launch towers, the valley and surroundings, and viewing areas. Clicking on icons also provides extra info and footage of launches from Xichang.
Other possibilities include the site's space museum, which contains a Shenzhou crewed space capsule and models of Chang'e lunar spacecraft and Long March rockets.
A Shenzhou capsule on display at Xichang.
Xichang was chosen to be China's second launch site, after Jiuquan in the Gobi Desert, in 1969. The location - far from both the coast and US bomber, and also the border with the then Soviet Union - was selected during the Cold War amid heightened security concerns and fear of attack from both superpowers.
Xichang Satellite Launch Centre (西昌卫星发射中心) became operational in 1984, and in February 1996 was the scene of the disastrous and fatal first launch of the Long March 3B rocket, designed to be China's largest rocket yet and deliver payloads to geosynchronous orbits.
The launch vehicle has since gone on to loft missions for the Chinese Lunar Exploration Project, including Chang'e-3, which saw a lander and rover soft-land on the lunar surface in December 2013.
While chosen for national security reasons, the inland location also means that debris from launches threatens areas downrange.
NTI.org provides an overview of some of the technical aspects of Xichang.
A far off view of the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre.
The development of the Long March 7 rocket and a new launch complex at Wenchang means that eventually launches to geosynchronous orbits will move from Xichang to the more favourable southern site on Hainan island.
Other sites have also recently had panoramic treatment. Ahead of the launch of the Tiangong-2 space lab last year, a now-deleted webpage provided an explorable look at the Long March 2F-T2 at Jiuquan.
The launch of the second Long March 7, carrying China's first space freighter, Tianzhou-1, in April, also saw a 360-degree, close-up view of the launch at Wenchang.
Screenshot from a 360-degree panorama of the Long March 2F-T2 carrying the Tiangong-2 space lab at Jiuquan in 2016.