Jeffrey LewisTaiyuan Space Launch Center

Crossposted at as “Eyeing China’s Missileers.”

ITAR TASS reports that China test fired a DF-31 ICBM from the Taiyuan Space Launch Center:

China has carried out a regular test launch of a Dongfeng-31 intercontinental ballistic missile. Itar-Tass was told at the Russian Defence Ministry on Tuesday that “the Chinese side had notified the Russian Defence Ministry in advance about the upcoming launching of the intercontinental missile”.

“The Dongfeng-31 missile was fired from the Wuzhai launch site towards the Taklimakan desert at about midnight on Monday”, a Russian ministry official said. The head section of the missile, he added, flew approximately 2.5 thousand kilometres. The Russian space control facilities had tracked the missile’s start and flight.

The new Chinese intercontinental ballistic missiles will be put into
service already this year. Improved longer-range Dongfeng-31A missiles are expected to be commissioned in 2007. These two types of intercontinental silo-based ballistic missiles are compact systems, which can be moved by means of tractors along general-purpose roads.

FAS has a nice summary of the DF-31 program in relation to this, probably the sixth flight test since 1999.

The Taiyuan Space Launch Center is called the Wuzhai Space and Missile Test Center by the US intelligence community for reasons that I’ve never understood—the facility is NOWHERE near Wuzhai. In fact, isn’t all that close to Taiyuan—284 km from Taiyuan City either by train or bus.

Anyway, I found the Taiyuan facility in GoogleEarth a while back, checking it against the map on the China Great Wall Industry Corporation website. You can see most of the major areas of the center, including the technology center, telemetry station (I think) and launch complex. (Mark Wade has a very nice map, too.)

If you look a little further north of the launch complex, you can see an area that is not on the map—a some buildings and big concrete launch pads that might be a candidate (and I stress might) for bthe DF-31 area.

Just a guess, though. The facility is huge, with something like 4 launch sites and more than a dozen support areas. I’ve posted a 1982 DIA report on the construction of a new assembly/checkout facility on the southeast edge of the facility—unfortunately, that area is low resolution.

So, take a look at the site—one aspect I would like to find is China’s R&D silo for the DF-5, which is at what the IC called Launch Site B. I may have to zip over to the National Archives to see if there are any reports on the facility with handy maps.