Hong Gang: Helping Shanghai launch top-quality rockets

Hong Gang was born in Chun'an County of east China's Zhejiang Province in 1976. Upon graduation, he joined a team of Shanghai astronauts and started his 20-year dream journey.
Ti Gong

Hong Gang checks the quality of work on a rocket

Personal profile

Hong Gang was born in Chun'an County of east China's Zhejiang Province in 1976. Upon graduation, he joined a team of Shanghai astronauts and started his 20-year dream journey.

Inspired by the dream to develop a strong powerhouse of technology and space exploration, Hong has been committed to the research of the carrier rocket launch industry. 

At the age of 35, he was appointed deputy chief designer of the Long March II-D carrier rocket, which has been successfully launched 40 times. 

Nowadays, he's become the chief designer of the program, as well as an overall expert on carrier rocket technology. He has made outstanding contributions to the development of space science and the modernization of national defense.

Hong Gang’s dream-seeking journey in aerospace coincides with the 40th anniversary of China’s aerospace industry after it became strong following the nation's reform and opening-up. 

Currently, Shanghai is accelerating the construction of a scientific innovation center with global influence, in line with a new round of reform and opening-up. Standing at a new historical starting point, Hong said he looks forward to the rockets he and his team develop flying higher, and making new contributions to China's space dream.

Ti Gong

In 2005, Hong Gang obtained a master degree from Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

My story

Studying abroad, doing private business or working for foreign companies were popular choices for college graduates 20 years ago. As an outstanding graduate of Harbin Institute of Technology, I also had many choices, but I dedicated myself to the aerospace industry, and thus became a member of the Shanghai Space Agency.

Under the influence of aerospace culture from the old generation of astronauts, I started from an ordinary technician and put all my energy into my work. 

From valve design to power system design, to the development of the entire model of the Long March II-D carrier rocket, my down-to-earth effort has been recognized by all parties. I was appointed as the assistant chief engineer of the Long March II-D carrier rocket at the age of 33 and became the deputy chief designer of the carrier rocket two years later.

During the process, I strongly feel that reform and opening-up has not only brought supportive funds, but also intangible assets to China's space industry. Many advanced concepts such as management innovation, efficiency awareness and being people-oriented have provided a powerful boost for China's space industry — like a continuous propellant.

For decades, continuous technological improvements and management innovations have been deeply integrated into our team. The design of the launch vehicle is a process of continuous improvement. For instance, during the first application test of the rocket redundant control system at the launch site, three CPU output data perimeters of the computer (backup), which is equivalent to the rocket's "brain," appeared to be inconsistent. Although the normal operation of the system only requires two of the three CPUs and the schedule for the test was rather tight, our aerospace team was still committed to solving the problem to eliminate any possible defects or malfunction. 

The whole team then carried out intense troubleshooting tests. After repeated testing and analysis of many factors such as temperature and power-on time, the problem was solved and the launch of the rocket was successful.

Ti Gong

Hong Gang explains a rocket launch mission to his team at a warehouse

The persistent pursuit of high reliability of products has earned us a place in the international market. In 2011, I led my team and the Long March II-D carrier rocket to compete with our counterparts from Russia and Japan for the GK-2 satellite launch service in Turkey. Our team successfully won the contract.

However, after further communication with the customer, we found the frequency of the satellite is close to the natural frequency of the rocket, which means that resonance may occur, resulting in incompatibility between the rocket and the satellite. Such problems are usually solved by changing the satellite's frequency, but the Turkish side refused to adjust their satellite and decided to abolish the first round of bidding and launch a new round.

After repeated research, along with nearly 200 emails, more than 10 video conferences, 4 flights to Turkey, and 3 low-impact improvement experiments, we finally won the trust of the Turkish customer and succeeded again in the second round of bidding.

On December 19, 2012, the Long March II-D carrier rocket successfully sent the GK-2 satellite into orbit. The deviation was only 0.003 degrees, more than 30 times lower than general design requirements. It has set a new record for the accuracy of the Chinese carrier rocket.

At the celebration feast, the Turkish ambassador in China gave a 30-minute speech with excitement and helped to establish a good international reputation for China's future international commercial launch. Global satellite manufacturers, insurance companies and brokers have also praised the Long March II-D carrier rocket.

This year marks the 26th anniversary since the first launch of the Long March II-D. In the past few years, many popular satellites such as Wukong, Mozi and Huiyan have been sent into space by the Long March II-D. Looking back over the past two decades, I have a deeper feeling about the instant development of technology. From 1994 to 1998, the country was short of funds, investment in aerospace was relatively reduced, and the threshold for the aerospace industry was rather high. Many aerospace personnel chose to quite during that period. 

I remember that when I first entered the office, there were only two or three members in a professional group. The Shanghai Space Agency only had one carrier rocket model at that time. It only had one launch mission in two or three years. Now, there are five or six launch vehicle models and over 15 launch missions annually. The following year, the agency received nearly 20 launch missions, along with pre-research and military-civilian integration tasks. The professional group I once served, for instance, has more than 20 members now, mostly young specialists in their 30s who are full of vigor and enthusiasm.

China is moving forward from a space country to a leading space powerhouse with a high-spirited attitude. All such achievements are thanks to the reform and opening-up of the past 40 years that largely enhance the comprehensive state power as well as the nation's emphasis on technology and innovation. 

As a witness and participant, I feel deeply proud of being born in such a great era.

Special Reports