Zhang was born in Kunshan, Jiangsu province. He joined the Communist Party in June 1992, ten years after starting work. He graduated from the PLA Academy of Science and Technology with a degree in physics. He worked for most of his career at the Chinese Academy of Engineering Physics. He was made party chief of the organization in December 2007. in September 2015, he was transferred to work at the State Administration for Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence as deputy chief.
In May 2018, he became head of the China National Space Administration.