Chen Fangyun, a Man of Great Merit for China’s Nuclear Bomb, Missile and Satellite Undertaking: Work Selflessly for the Prosperity of My Motherland

Chen Fangyun (April 3, 1916 - April 29, 2000), born in Taizhou City, Zhejiang Province, was a winner of the Nuclear Bomb, Missile and Satellite Meritorious Medal, academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, academician of the International Academy of Astronautics, and the Vice President of the International Astronautical Federation (IAF). He was also a scientist in the field of radio electronics, an expert in the area of space system engineering, and one of the founders of satellite measurement and control technology in China. In the early days of his career, Chen Fangyun took initiative in China by researching millimicrosecond pulse technology. He had also led his team to successfully develop China’s first generation airborne monopulse radar, which has made pioneering contribution to radio electronics researches in China. Chen Fangyun took charge technically of China’s first satellite tracking and measurement system, and had participated in the design and build-up of the system in a comprehensive way. He proposed and designed new schemes for the microwave integrated telemetry, tracking and command (TT&C) system used for the launch of China’s communications satellites, and was responsible for the research and development of the system as well as for the coordination of the satellite-Earth technology, thus to have made great contributions to the build-up of China’s satellite TT&C network. In addition, he was one of the founders of China’s 863 Program and the founder of the theory for BeiDou Navigation Satellite System.

Chen Fangyun graduated from high school in 1934 and was then admitted to the Physics Department of Tsinghua University. After graduating the in 1938, he entered the Radio Research Institute of Tsinghua University, and was then transferred to Chengdu Radio Factory as recommended by Wang Tianjuan, a physicist from his hometown. After the victory of the Anti-Japanese War, Chen Fangyun went to the UK to further his study, determined to help China get rid of poverty and backwardness through science and technology. Chen Fangyun graduated with excellent scores after spending four years in studying, researching and working in the UK. He returned to China, with first-class achievements in the field of electronic engineering technology as well as his aspirations to work for his motherland.

After the founding of the People’s Republic of China, Chen Fangyun was entrusted with the task of preparing for the establishment of the Institute of Electronics, Chinese Academy of Sciences. The Institute was established in 1956. Then Chen Fangyun was appointed as the Director of the Fourth Research Room. Subsequently, he developed the world’s first ultra-short wave pulse measurement equipment, which was used to measure the radiation of nuclear bombs. In 1963, Chen Fangyun and his assistants successfully developed a millimicrosecond pulse sampling oscilloscope, the first one worldwide. In 1964, Chen Fangyun successfully developed the anti-jamming radar, the first kind of monopulse radar ever used in China’s airplanes.

In 1984, Chen Fangyun was promoted as the standing member of the Science and Technology Committee of COSTIND. In March 1986, Chen Fangyun proposed advice altogether with Wang Daheng, Yang Jiachi, and Wang Ganchang that would significant help the development China’s high technologies. Approved and supported by Deng Xiaoping and based on the determination of the State Council after hearing on experts’ opinions, a plan was formulated for the development of China’s high technologies, namely the 863 Program, which had ushered in a new sphere for the development of high technologies in China.

Chen Fangyun began to carry out researches to demonstrate theories of communications satellite TT&C systems in the early 1970s. How to control satellites that are 36 000 kilometers away from Earth with TT&C equipment on Earth surface? Chen Fangyun proposed that, with the help of microwave band, multi-functions can be integrated in one equipment. And in the meanwhile, orbit measurement, telemetry, remote control, and digital transmission can also be achieved. In April 1984, this system proposed by Chen Fangyun had played a vital role in the launch of China’s first synchronous communications satellite. In 1985, this scientific result was awarded with the Special Prize of China’s National Science and Technology Progress Award. As the major participant in the design and formulation of the TT&C system for China’s recycling remote sensing satellite, Chen Fangyun had made great contributions to the successful recycling of more than a dozen remote sensing satellites in China, and was therefore awarded with another prize of China’s National Science and Technology Progress Award. Chen Fangyun proposed and took charge of the development of the Double Satellite Positioning System Program, and successfully demonstrated it in 1989. For the first time in history in the world, humans were capable of integrating rapid positioning, communications and timing into one system by making use of two satellites at the same time.

On June 4, 2010, an asteroid, which was discovered by Chinese scientists and had been coded as No.10929 permanently, was named Asteroid Chen Fangyun after being approved by the Small Celestial Bodies Naming Committee of IAU and announced by the Asteroid Bulletin of IAU on its No. 43191 notice worldwide.

“We must set a high goal though the life is full of challenges. And work selflessly for the prosperity of my motherland.” “I work to seek innovations and render my services without the intention of fishing reputations for myself. I usually feel ashamed when I see others work harder than me!” Those are lines written my Chen Fangyun, which well reflect his virtuous personality and selfless spirit.