Sun Jiadong: An Important Promoter of Innovative Development of Aerospace Science and Technology

At the conference on celebrating the 40th anniversary of China’s reform and opening-up in December 18, 2018, Sun Jiadong, nearly ninety-year-old senior technical advisor with China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation was awarded “Reform Pioneer”.

Since Sun Jiadong returned to China after overseas study in 1958, he participated in developing China’s first missile and led in developing China’s first man-made satellite Dongfanghong 1 (DFH-1). Over the past 60 years, he had been a participator and witness of the milestone events in China’s aerospace development.

He said, at the initial stage of China’s aerospace development, the first thing that needed considering was to solve the problem of “making it happen”. At that time, when we needed to launch a project, we just went to the factory and gathered the experienced workers, put forward requirements and took away the output if I thought it’s qualified. And, the factory mentioned nothing of the payment.

With the implementation of the reform and opening-up policy, China’s science and technology embraced better conditions for development. Its aerospace undertakings also responded to the clarion call.

“Aerospace industry comprises systematic engineering that integrates various fields of science and technology. Once the foundations for each industry are well laid and development is achieved accordingly, both sides can provide new technologies for aerospace industry when you look for cooperation with other parties,” he said.  

At the same time, the reform and opening-up also directed China’s aerospace industry towards the battlefield for national economy. More and more “specialties of aerospace industry” became available in daily life.

“Man-made satellites entail various technologies in thermal physics. They also start to be applied in our daily life and production, for example, they can help rinsing piece goods in the textile industry,” said Sun Jiadong.  

By 1980s, Chinese government advocated to make Chinese rockets go to the world and serve the world’s aerospace market. It also declared that Chinese carrier rockets would be put into international markets and offer launch services towards other countries.

Launch of foreign satellites was an international technological cooperation with commercial nature. Sun Jiadong, Vice Minister of the Ministry of Aerospace Industry of the People’s Republic of China back then was committed at critical moment to serve the development of China’s aerospace undertakings. The first commercial launch sent a U.S. satellite into space by a Long March rocket.

“We did a large amount of work at that time, which caused great impact in the world market,” said Sun.

In 40 years, Sun Jiadong was a part in developing every piece of national treasures such as “Fengyun” meteorological satellites, “BeiDou” navigation satellites, Dongfanghong communications satellites and lunar exploration satellites.

He was also considered as the “chief of chief engineers” in China’s aerospace industry. With innovated thoughts and methods, he made breakthroughs in key technologies and overcame many complicated problems.

Looking back at his decades of work experience, Sun thought himself as “an ordinary person in aerospace industry”. In his view, “it is the Chinese aerospace spirit that matters in developing China’s first man-made satellite”; as to his honors, “it is the development of China’s aerospace industry that has brought me such honors.”