UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


TJSW = Tongxin Jishu Shiyan Weixing

Dean Cheng noted in 2009 that "Space systems, by virtue of their location, provide unrivaled early detection and tracking of ballistic missiles throughout their flight. At a minimum, then, they can provide prompt warning of enemy ballistic missile attacks. With sufficient refinement, they can also assist missile defense forces by predicting both missile flight paths and impact points. At this time, however, according to available open source data, there is no evidence of a Chinese missile early warning satellite..."

Mark A. Stokes and Dean Cheng wrote in April 2012 that "No firm evidence exists that China has deployed a space-based ballistic missile early warning capability. However, a technical foundation exists: for example, with infrared sensors associated with the FY weather satellite program. The SJ-7 satellite, designed and developed by SAST’s 509 Research Institute and launched on a SAST-manufactured LM-2D from Jiuquan on July 6, 2005, has been cited as an experimental platform to test pushbroom and mercury-cadmium-telluride (HgCdTe) infrared sensor arrays. Also equipped with a star sensor for precise attitude control, the SJ-7 took only 33 months to design and develop from its initiation in August 2002. The CAS Shanghai Institute of Technical Physics is said to have developed the infrared sensors."

The super-secretive Communications Engineering Test Satellite -1 (TXJSSY-1) was launched by China from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center on 12 September 2015. Launch of the spacecraft took place at 15:42 UTC using a Long March-3B (Chang Zheng-3B) rocket. There was very little information regarding the satellite, with an announcement only provided to the Chinese media – controlled by the Chinese government.

Rumors initially suggested that this launch involved the first Great Wall (Changcheng) satellite – a new series of Chinese satellites dedicated to early warning similar to the American Space Based Infra-Red Sensor satellites. Xinhua reported that the satellite will be "used to perform tests on the Ka frequency band in broadband communications". It is difficult to separate rumors with some foundations from wild allegations and conspiracy theories.

Japan’s Kyodo News reported that China was building a missile defense system to detect a ballistic missile attack. The Kyodo News report was based on Chinese military documents that referred the development of an experimental early warning satellite program. Additionally the report pointed out that China had started the development of an X-band radar system as part of a ground-based interceptor system.

Brian Harvey suggested in 2019 that the Tongxin Jishu Shiyan Weixing (TJSW - "communications engineering test satellite”) may be a military intelligence program, although with different functions – TJSW 1 for eavesdropping and TJSW 2 for early warning.

TJSW 2 / Huoyan-1A secretive TJSW 2 satellite was launched at China's Xichang Satellite Launch Center using a Long March-3C/G2 launch vehicle from the LC3 launch complex on January 5, 2017. Tongxin Jishu Shiyan Weixing 2 was the first geosynchronous orbit satellite to be manufactured by SAST (thus indicating that it was not a repeat of the CAST Tongxin Jishu Shiyan Weixing 1 satellite). The lack of information and the nature of the launch preparations, with only marginal references to the payload, point to the secretive nature of the satellite, designated Huoyan-1 (variously translated as “fire eyes”, “steely eyes” and “fire cam”).

On January 7, a CZ-3B / G2 (Y64) rocket with a military satellite on board departed from Xichang base. The takeoff, at 15:20 UTC, served to place a spacecraft of unknown exact functions in orbit. Called TJSW (Communications Engineering Test Satellites), they are placed in a geostationary orbit, but their mission is not clear. In any case, the secrecy that surrounds them suggests that they will have military duties.

Built by the SAST organization, the new vehicle could be dedicated to detecting signals from missile launches, so that it could be classified as an immediate alert satellite. Although they have flown with the same name, their predecessors would have different functions, such as the detection of signals for intelligence, secure communications or the aforementioned immediate alert.

China launched TJSW-5, with official reports which used almost exact wording to describe it as TJSW-2 launched 3 years ealier, including that SAST built it. SAST never built GEO comsats (only GEO weather sats including the latest FY-4 series).

#rSatelliteCOSPAR IDcatalog
Launch time ( UTC+8 )Other namesPurposeorbitinstitutionsLaunch siteRocket 1TJSW One2015-046A408922015-09-12 23:42OutpostGTOChina Academy of Space Technology XichangCZ-3B Y32 2TJSW II2017-001A419112017-01-05 23:18Fire eyeGTOShanghai Aerospace Technology Research Institute XichangCZ-3B Y39 3TJSW III2018-110A438742018-12-25 00:53Fire eyeGTOShanghai Institute of Aerospace Technology XichangLong March 3 C Y17 4TJSW IV2019-070A446372019-10-17 23:21OutpostGTOChina Academy of Space Technology XichangCZ-3B Y57 5TJSW No. 5 2020-002A449782020-01-07 23:20Fire eyeGTOShanghai Institute of Aerospace TechnologyXichangCZ-3B Y62 6TJSW No. 6 2021-010A476132021-02-04 23:36:04.286Fire eyeGTOShanghai Institute of Aerospace TechnologyXichangCZ-3B Y77 7TJSW No. 72021-077A?4908?2021-08-24 23:41Fire eyeGTOShanghai Aerospace Technology Research InstituteXichangCZ-3B Y78
TJSW = Tongxin Jishu Shiyan Weixing = Communication Technology Test Satellite

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list

Page last modified: 04-12-2021 17:15:48 ZULU