China's uncrewed orbiting craft already speckle the sky, and 2012 through 2017 should see sizable expansion and enhancement of the country's satellite networks. This expansion will extend into several spheres, from high-resolution Earth-observation satellites, to orbital craft housing scientific experiments and technical instruments, to systems for monitoring space debris.
Perhaps most significantly, the country plans by 2020 to have established the Beidou global-positioning and navigation system, a web of 35 satellites akin to America's Global Positioning System. Having a homegrown GPS will imbue China with greater navigational independence and will enable its military to take its command and control to the next level.
Launching satellites successfully is only the first stage in China's plan to take on space. Continue on to hear how the nation's crewed spacecraft are coming along.